Designer Rebeka Arce on the art of perfecting your portfolio

Designer Rebeka Arce on the art of perfecting your portfolio
In partnership with Adobe — In The OFFF Dispatch we’ve partnered with Adobe to report back from OFFF Barcelona, one of the world’s largest showcases of creativity, art and digital design. Here, the Arce Studio founder shares her tips on standing out from the crowd.

Rebeka Arce is the founder and art director of Arce Studios, creating visual strategies and leading collaborative design projects for brands in various fields including culture, technology, fashion, music, food.

Arce’s work focuses on incorporating a brand’s core values into its visual identity, bringing its DNA to the surface through immersive, narrative-driven concepts. 

In addition to her work as a multidisciplinary designer, Rebeka is also a professor at IED Madrid, a prestigious design and fashion school in the Spanish capital, where she teaches students that “you’ll never be a good designer if you don’t have the drive to discover what’s out there”.

This impulse to learn, and desire to remain receptive to constant change, is also at the heart of OFFF, a festival featuring three days of masterclasses, talks, and workshops delivered by the most innovative professionals in the creative and design industries. It took place in Barcelona from 5 – 7 May. 

Adobe, OFFF’s main partner, created a space for these conversations through the Adobe Creativity Hub, where attendees heard from the best designers in the field and learnt about Adobe’s latest cutting-edge tools aimed at supporting creators of all kinds. 

Adobe also provided young creatives with the opportunity to attend one-on-one portfolio-review workshops with artists and designers at the top of the game – including Arce herself.

To mark that, she discusses her best tips for creating a stand-out portfolio, and how curiosity and consistency help her stay at the top of her game.

How did you start your personal creative journey? 

My first experience with image creation was through my grandfather’s camera, which became the tool through which I observed the outside world. 

My family worked in the metal industry so I had no references of what was possible outside of that and when I had to decide what to study, I was totally lost. I ended up studying topography because my father suggested it. 

Studying something that I didn’t want to do made me realise that I needed to commit myself to what I deeply wanted to explore, which was to study something creative. That’s why I switched to design. After graduation, I worked in different design studios in Berlin and in Bilbao for three years until I moved to Madrid in 2013 to do a master’s. I then started my journey as an independent designer and in a very natural progression, I built my own studio collaborating with other talented humans.

 Through practice we are able to find our own identity, and practising design and creativity has helped me do just that. Thanks to committing myself to studying what I really wanted to do, I was able to discover things about myself and leave my comfort zone. 

 How did you find your niche? 

I gravitate towards different disciplines, that’s why I really enjoy branding as it encompasses everything. 

But to be honest, I never had a plan. I feel each of the projects that I developed in my career have had an impact on my way of understanding design and on how I want to continue facing future projects. I always try to approach each project by questioning it from the beginning, so I feel that we are capable of taking it beyond the initial expectations of the people we work for, and in addition, we turn each project into a deeper personal challenge connected to our own principles and concerns.

I think that this challenging approach is the one that makes me build a more solid and intimate relationship with the projects and clients I work for.

Who have been your biggest inspirations along the way?

Music is the art that has been present throughout my life, which is why I think it has had a great influence on me and today, I feel that it is one of my great sources of inspiration. 

Perhaps that’s why I have a certain obsession with rhythm and I always try to express it even if I am creating a static image. I like to investigate those sources that are not visual, that can convey an emotion or an idea, and that is what I later translate into visual language.

As designers we have a certain hypersensitivity to the environment and to observing it – sometimes a bit obsessively. For this reason, I also feel that places and people are a fundamental part of our day-to-day inspiration.

How do you deal with periods when you’re uninspired?

Over the years working as a designer, I realised that when I feel uninspired it’s usually connected to periods of fatigue or to times when something is not going well, as if the lack of inspiration is the means by which my mind tells me that I need to get some fresh air. 

So when I feel uninspired I try to go out and look outside, visit exhibitions, discover a new album or talk to people and friends who inspire me.

What would you say are the main things that make a portfolio stand out?

Concept-driven, risk, consistency, expression and a sense of intelligence.

What are the best tools to use?

Brain, emotions, eyes, music, pencil and your favourite notebook.

What are your best tips on creating a unique and eye-catching portfolio? 

Try not to make the goal eye-catching! Although I come from a background in graphic design, every day I am less interested in the final visual output, and more in making sure that the visual piece that we create conveys a message, an idea or an emotion that provides the brand or the project for which we work an entity to be able to communicate through visual language.

 What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?

This is a hard one! I think: ‘The solution is in the problem.’

How are you planning to conduct these 1:1 portfolio reviews at the festival? What will you focus on?

I would like to be able not only to give feedback on the final output of the projects, but also on the way in which the creatives tell their work, trying to perceive whether or not they are sure of them, what their attitude is, their spirit. And from that point of understanding what the person behind is like and what their purpose is, try to adapt the portfolio so that the spirit that identifies them is transmitted through their work.

How has Adobe been part of your creative journey? 

I consider my generation to be very privileged since Adobe already existed when I started studying design, so I was able to use its tools from the beginning. For me they were always one of the best instruments with which to translate an idea that comes up into visual language.

How do you use Adobe in your day-to-day work?

Adobe software is what is always running on my computer! It’s definitely a must in my daily work and I couldn’t think of any alternative that would offer me the same tools and possibilities.

What are you most looking forward to at the festival, and who are you excited to meet? 

There are so many amazing rockstars in the OFFF line-up that I won’t miss! I’m looking forward to attending the keynotes of Refik Anadol, DIA Studio, Paula Scher and my friends from Burn&Broad, among others. I’m also really excited about participating in the Women at Work by Hey chat along with other amazing female creators such as OK Motion Club, Tina Touli, Verònica Fuerte and Ane Guerra on the Agora space on the 6th of May at 17:40. And of course, having some drinks with talented friends attending the festival!

How do you envision the future of creativity?

In these uncertain times we live in I think it’s difficult to talk about the future, but when it comes to creativity, I see two fundamental points.

On the one hand, we live in an era of visual infoxication in which design should not only be an act of creation, but an act of choosing what to create and what not. That is why I think designers should take responsibility for the images we create and be aware that since these images leave a mark on contemporary visual culture, we could change, for example, the way in which social and cultural stereotypes are created in our imagination.

On the other hand, creativity has always been a means through which to express emotions and even at certain times, to express what we are not capable of through other languages. Therefore it’s a very powerful tool to take care of ourselves, feel better, and deal with this crazy world we live in.

Follow along for more stories from The OFFF Dispatch and learn more about OFFF Barcelona at

Watch Adobe Live on-demand, which took place at OFFF from 5 – 7 May, and check out what’s new in Adobe Creative Cloud.

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