Friday Fives: Stefano Giustiniani (Los Hopper)

March 05, 2021

On Fridays we give #highfives to a different designer from our extended family of PNCA students, faculty, alumni, and guest lecturers. 🙌🏾🙌🏻🙌🏽 We ask them five questions, and post five images.

This week's feature is Stefano Giustiniani, the co-founder (with his partner Maria) of Los Hopper, a creative studio based in San José, Costa Rica that specializes in a trans-disciplinary approach for wild ideas and experimental visual output. Los Hopper works collectively and strategically to generate ideas that incorporate humor, objects, environments, and situations. The results span a big visual world of possibilities in graphic design, art direction, motion and animation, illustration, typography, packaging, web, and so much more.

Stefano is joining us on 3/10/21 for our Design Panel Series, a student-powered conversation with visiting guests, current PNCA Design students, faculty, and friends, presented in collaboration with FISK. Join us for the online conversation by registering on EventBrite (we'll send you a's free and open to the public!).

Graphic Design department head Kristin Rogers Brown spoke with Stefano in March, 2021.

Q: What do you "geek out" about?

A: the NBA! Watching almost 40 of 82 regular season games plus playoffs... younger I was a fan of the Bulls/Sonics, of course, but now I just like to understand the game and its peripheries down to the last detail: new rules, advanced stats, positionless basketball strategies, theory and of course team and player drama (life outside the court).

I’ve been trying hard to keep learning about the game and I guess more to the point I’ve been thinking about how running a design studio could be more like running a basketball team. Making connections between types of strategies and how teams have different profiles for players, the 3-and-D, slashers, all-around, and the newly defined 3D player (3pts, defense, and attacking the hoop). I’ve not gone very far with all this, it's more of a thought process that tends to make me happy at any given time. I also play pick-up twice a week with friends and unknown people (pre-pandemic), this in fact keeps me energized and going where design matters.

Arbitrary Specificities...

Rebound highlights; 2015-16 Rusell Westbrook; 95–96 Shawn Kemp; Second Three-peat Bulls; 2020 Miami Heat; Logo-Lillard; not liking Steph Curry (but he is awesome); thinking Kevin Durant is a diva (but he is my favorite player); Jah “lives” Morant’s future; Verno and Kevin O’Connor fighting on the Mismatch over James Harden, No Dunk’s “Big beef”, Jalen Rose and “we give the people what they want”. Disagreeing with Bill Simmons only to find out he was right the next week.

Having all this benevolent chaos around me has made me stronger in spirit but also I’ve become better at solving any kind of problem: administrative, design, emotional...non-design problems solve my design problems.

Stefano Giustiniani

Q: How does a sense of place—or where you live/make work—affect your practice?

A: We operate two different studios in Costa Rica: Los Hopper (graphic design studio) and Laurel DD (interior and furniture design). On any given day you can find Pascal (my oldest son 11) experimenting with making Jello molds from latex gloves in the kitchen; Martina (our daughter, five) running her own “activity store” and charging 25 cents for experimental origami workshops; pre-pandemic, a 10-seat glass table with a mixture of family, friends, and co-workers sharing lunch and anecdotes; Cornelio and José (furniture craftsmen) showing up with samples to discuss; a garage full of fresh furniture ready to go out and boxes of old projects, paperwork and childhood memories; Denise (my mom) showing up to work on our ongoing jigsaw puzzle table; DHL at the door; Tuno (our dog) sunbathing; Bunnies eating everything in the garden; Maria (wife) doing damage control, land phone in one ear mobile phone on speaker; to top it all of @Chicos bar, a corner of the house we set up with tiny desks and chairs open for happy hour for friends and family only. Then you turn around and on any given day in the tropics the garage, packed with client furniture and old prints, is now flooding. We are in the rainy season, lost, running, screaming. Save everything!

Having all this benevolent chaos around me has made me stronger in spirit but also I’ve become better at solving any kind of problem: administrative, design, emotional...non-design problems solve my design problems.

For the past five years I’ve lived and worked in the same space. Our home has become our studio, our studio has become our home. Blurring this line on purpose has forced me to ninja blend my personal life with my work. In this environment I quickly found out that being a coworker, a dad, an employer, a friend, and a husband are different versions of me in equal right and should all and could all inform my design practice.

Q: What is your favorite trick for “keeping it all together”? Staying organized, managing your time?

A: To do lists; hot lists; naming lists; check lists; brainstorming lists; inventory lists; best-of lists; Top 3, Top 5, Top 10 lists; sometimes I make a to do list of the to do list aaaaaaaaand I treat my schedule like a high school class schedule: I have my Admin Block 7:30 am to 10 am my First Design Block from 10am to 12:45 pm. From 12:45 pm to –1:30 pm I have my recess/lunch. The Second Design Block kicks in at 1:30 pm and you get the point. If I haven't finished my work by the end of class I can throw in a Third Design Block from 8:30 pm to completion straight into university with an all nighter.

Q: This good question is from a previous guest... “Why do you do what you do?"

A: Because I pick journeys over destinations. Process for me is where the value is at, the process sticks with you forever. The rest is ephemeral, initial concepts, end of the line products; they exist only shortly, fading quickly into a collective archive of old ideas and deeds. The process has no beginning and no end. I choose the path of graphics and I keep on choosing it because it allows me to turn one road into many, so I know I’ll be doing it for the long run.

Q: How do you want to shape design?

A: I don’t like to shape my thoughts in that direction. It’s a collective endeavor design speaks for itself, design (the entity) shapes us, the way we think about people, how we communicate, how we approach things and the things we imagine. I do consider how my design choices can have a positive impact. It's much like everything else in life, try your best to do good, do honest work and stay true to yourself. We need to get better at that overall and being a designer gives you an edge on how to put it all together. But it’s not about an individual chiseling away to sculpt the magic stone, it's about the stone morphing on its own continuously.

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See more from Stefano and Los Hopper on instagram @los_hopper.

Hear more from Stefano in conversation with students and faculty in our Design Panel Series, recorded on 3/7/21, or check out the rest of the series. Co-hosted by PNCA Graphic Design and FISK.

Follow along with our #fridayfives on instagram @pncadesign.