Efren Martinez designer


As a design major within the School of Fine Arts, I noticed there weren’t any resources where designers could go to gain real-world experience designing for clients. I joined a group a friends in our quest to solve this issue by creating a client-facing student run design agency - Tandem Studios.

Team: Andres Garza, Annie Xue, Coleman Oei, Kevin Zhang, Michelle Lam, Minh Hue

Check it out →

A Rough Start

When we began in the Fall of 2017 the organization was brandless, going by the name “Studio,” and had 10 members. We were mostly working with on-campus student organizations on projects such as logo and t-shirt designs. Demand started to increase and the designers couldn’t keep up with the demand, especially during exam weeks. During this time there was also no set way of submitting requests or set way of keeping track of projects; everything pretty much lived on Google Drive.

We decided to expand but switch things up a bit with our approach to projects, and began to focus more on comprehensive projects that go beyond basic visual design and allowed the designers to explore areas in which they have interests in. We handpicked a group of diverse designers that could handle illustrations, coding, photography, videography, animation, and UI/UX.

The Rebrand

Along with my very talented friends, Minh Cao and Linda Li, we spearheaded the branding of our transition to becoming Tandem Studio. Our designers and clients produce enthusiastically-- you guessed it-- in tandem. We wanted a brand that could encompass our connection with the client, the idea of solving design challenges, and of course Austin.

Here We Are

With an increased number of designers, there needed to be a better method of keeping track of projects and communicating between designers and clients.  Tandem adopted using Trello as a means of project management and Slack as the means of communication. Then came in our life saver, Kevin Zhang, who wanted to take on the role of Project Manager for Tandem. Even though, we did project management through Trello, having a dedicated PM take on the larger projects made communication between designer and client 100x smoother and more efficient.

By the Spring semester of 2018, Tandem Studio already has more than 25 talented designers and currently has 31 in-progress projects. We also had the opportunity to partner with UT Austin's first interdisciplinary incubator, Texas Convergent, which connects business, technology, and design, to get hands-on experience working with technical startup teams.

My Tandem Fam(ily)

My goals of getting more people not only interested in design, but providing them with a space to grow and learn with designers has come so far. There were moments when things were at a stand still and our hard work seemed to have gone down the drain, but the dedication of all those involved really shines through. It’s a great sight seeing the little family we’ve become through Tandem and how we don’t hesitate to ask for help or pass on opportunities to each other. As I graduate and pass on the role of co-director, I have no doubt that designers will continue to dedicate themselves to the purpose of this organization and keep this design space alive.