An AIGA Honolulu Creative Close-up
By Di Salas
AIGA Honolulu’s Creative Close-up is a profiling series featuring Hawaii’s resident creatives that make waves through design in all shapes and forms. To end Valentine’s Week, we’d like to feature fellow board member, Mark Guillermo and his partner Chris Acacio.
“We’re both designers and the way we met was kind of normal,” gushes 34-year-old designer Mark Guillermo. “Our friends introduced us to each other at the 2011 Pele Awards and we hit it off.”
Their first date was at an art show. “Being in the design industry, we had lots to talk about and knew the same people. By 2016, we got married.” The couple designed their own invitations and branded their dream wedding, a project that later earned them an award at the 2017 AIGA 5-0 Competition and Awards Show. #chrisandmarksayyas
Guillermo and his husband, 28-year-old Chris Acacio, are both local creatives born and raised on Oahu. Guillermo currently sits on the board for AIGA Honolulu as the digital director and has just transitioned from a branding and digital marketing agency to being an in-house senior designer for Kailua-based start-up company WealthFit. “I feel led to work for a company that specializes in financial education and security, it’s not something people my age like to think about, but it’s necessary.”
Guillermo and Acacio know a thing or two about financial security, they just purchased a home in their second year of marriage and have learned how to navigate through the creative industry with the same goal of owning a home together. Serving as the Brand and Creative Services Supervisor for Bank of Hawaii, Acacio earned his promotion through positioning himself as an asset to one of Hawaii’s largest financial institutions. “As a designer, I never imagined I’d work for a financial institution,” says Acacio. “I studied graphic design here in Hawaii, mentored by professor Scott Kawamura, and I’m now responsible for managing BOH’s brand and visual identity in the local community.”
Creativity Can Be Profitable
“Chris and I are very fortunate to have had great jobs so far,” says Guillermo. “We work hard in this industry. Coming from a typical Filipino family, my parents envisioned my career in engineering or the medical field. I had to prove them wrong and show them that being a creative can be profitable. I did that by diversifying my skill set in designing websites.”
Acacio agrees, “In my position, I had to show that creativity plays a role in making a company successful.” Acacio’s talents served as a key element in the refreshing of Bank of Hawaii’s branches, a long-term project geared toward updating and enhancing their clientele’s banking experience. “I had to step out of the typical duties of a graphic designer. I worked with vendors, managed logistics and a large budget to move the initiative along. It was completely outside of my comfort zone, but it has become one of the projects I’m most proud of as a creative.”
Guillermo’s proudest moment was seeing the results of his work on the rebranding of L&L Hawaii. “Sometimes I forget that it was an international rebranding. But I remember thinking about how this brand would connect with local folks like me, people across the U.S., Japan, and Guam,” he says. “I was at Wall-to-Wall Studios at the time and we rebranded their entire website and in-store graphics, and worked very closely with the owners. I’m proud to have been a part of that.”
The couple’s talents for refreshing and rebranding are brought out in the design and decor of their new home. Surprisingly, a cohesive theme was achieved without debate. “Being creatives, you’d think we’d fight over the artwork, decor, and paint colors in our house, but it’s quite the opposite,” says Mark. “We decided on neutrals for our home and because we get really tired of artwork easily, the neutrals allow us to refresh our accent decor from time to time.”
Although grateful to have settled into a new home, Guillermo realizes the opportunities he’s been blessed with are not available to other local designers or aspiring creatives. “Chris and I have always been a part of AIGA Honolulu,” he says. “I wanted to join the board because I feel like I can advocate for digital designers and the need for creatives to diversify their skill set for this industry.”
“I saw the need to serve the creative community because we’ve seen many great, local designers and friends leave the islands for better pay and bigger opportunities,” says Guillermo. “As a married couple in the same industry, we both feel like there’s a need to retain local talent and fuel this industry with creative ways to solve problems.”
“Before people start thinking we now live in a mansion, let me clarify that we don’t,” laughs Acacio. “We’re hosting housewarming parties in shifts and it’s been so fun. We live near our families and it’s great to tell them to come over…when we’re not having homeowner headaches.”
“Yes! Although we’ve used the entire house as a canvas for our artwork, it’s been a huge responsibility. It’s all part of adulting,” says Chris.