Designed to Be Different

3 mins read

    BARCELONA—A graphic design studio unlike any other snuggles in the cozy streets of Barcelona, Spain. La Casa de Carlota produces creative campaigns in unique fashion by emphasizing the work of disabled artists, half of whom have autism or Down syndrome.  

    José María Batalla founded La Casa de Carlota in 2013 after working with kids on a project called, “Fish Don’t Get Wet.” He noticed how the children with disabilities approached the creative process, which resulted in youthful and eccentric designs. Their creations, he said, came directly from their imaginations onto paper. They didn’t worry about typical design rules, conventions, or limits.

    For example, some kids will paint a sun green if they want, even if they know it’s yellow. Also, if an object is three-dimensional, they will try to capture the dimensions on paper, which gives their drawings a very special quality, Batalla said.

    People without disabilities replace these qualities with logic, realism, and order as they age. Yet people with Down syndrome keep drawing like children all their life.

    “The artists’ designs have a singular, lively, child-like creativity to them—a creativity like no other,” said Batalla. The studio’s work is “brighter and different.”

    In many workplaces, diversity amounts to one or two hires and is mainly for public relations. Not at La Casa de Carlota.

    There are no “token” disabled people, and everyone, regardless of intellectual or mental “capability,” is held to the same expectations and standards and offered the same level of respect.  

    “Creativity can be much more potent if we include different talents,” said Batalla. “La Casa de Carlota has taught us to forget about our prejudices. All of us are equal, all of us have abilities — but nobody is special. All of us are different.”

    Worldwide employment rates for mentally disabled people are very low. An accessible, open, non-stigmatized environment, La Casa de Carlota’s prejudice-free foundation impacts more than just the work produced.

    “I would like everyone to find a place like La Casa de Carlota. A place where they feel accepted, respected, and valued for their work,” said Montserrat Peraire, mother of disabled designer Joan Pumarola.

    In a world where the odds are stacked against disabled people, La Casa de Carlota isn’t some miracle or safe haven. It’s a glimpse into a future of equality.

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