Ask Aida about her favorite memories from growing up in Spain and she’s likely to tell you about the time she took her sister to the cinema for the first time. The movie was Disney’s animated “Tarzan,” and Aida still remembers the thrill of watching the characters swinging from vine to vine across the big screen.
This film and others like it fueled Aida’s lifelong passion for illustration and design. Years later, she forged an international career as an advertising art director that led her from agencies across Europe to EF Education First’s office in Shanghai. What started as a three-month job with EF Kids & Teens, quickly turned into one of the best career decisions she’s ever made (her words!).
“I’ve been able to collaborate with so many amazing people. Soon after joining EF I had the opportunity to work with one of the animators from ‘Tarzan,’” recalls Aida. “It was one of the most impactful moments in my career, and it helped me realize just how talented and professional EF’s creative teams are. I really appreciate how EF understands the importance of good design.”
Five years, two continents and three cities later, Aida is still designing at EF. Today she’s a Creative Director for EF Kids & Teens, which provides innovative English language teaching resources and curriculum for learners ages three to 14. Based in Lucerne, Switzerland, her team is in charge of bringing EF characters to life. Together they create everything from branded promotional merchandise, staff uniforms, the iconic EF backpacks for kids, educational games and even puppets used to enhance classroom learning.
“Lots of thought goes into what we do,” explains Aida. “Our designers have a strong background in illustration and often come to us from places like Disney, Hello Kitty and Cartoon Network. They understand the kid world, what motivates kids and triggers their imaginations. We want to create things that people actually desire and want to use.”
Curious about what it takes to turn an idea into a product used by kids worldwide? We asked Aida to share her creative process and favorite parts of the job. Here’s what she had to say.
Tell us more about your role.
I spearhead creative direction for EF Kids & Teens merchandise. I’m responsible for research, including visiting international toy fairs and discovering design trends for kids and parents. My team and I bring these trends back to EF, where we concept and create educational and promotional materials for EF English language learners ages three to 14. The products we create are premium quality, eco-friendly and innovative. Everything we make is responsibly produced, safe for kids and a valuable marketing tool for our business.
What’s the best part about your job?
I like identifying global trends and defining how new products, concepts and visual trends can merge with the EF brand. I especially love discovering opportunities for brand collaborations. In the past, we’ve worked with well-known brands like Swatch, Speedo and Skullcandy as well as entrepreneurs who are producing innovative STEM toys. Bringing these cutting-edge products to our kids exposes them to new and engaging experiences and enriches our brand.
…and the most rewarding?
Design always has a purpose: communication. But at EF, our art has a higher purpose: education. We’re exposing kids to other cultures and teaching them that learning is fun. Our products are unconventional and the imagery we use triggers kids’ imaginations. We believe imagination is the most powerful tool for engagement and motivation.
What have been some of your favorite moments since joining EF?
I love going to schools and showing our stuff to kids. They’re so honest! It’s really inspiring to see their reactions and to learn from their creativity. We’ve heard so many times that studying is horrible. We’re proud of changing that attitude and helping students find motivation, fun and happiness in their educational journeys with us.
What are you most proud of?
I’m proud of many things. It makes me proud to see kids smile when they interact with our merchandise. I feel proud when I walk into Starbucks and find a student using a workbook my team designed, when I spot EF luggage and backpacks in airports around the world, or when we discover ways to reduce waste in our production process. Most of all, I’m proud to know that I’m contributing to children’s education and visually immersing them in our world.