From their shared co-working space in the Baroque district of Las Salesas,
the Walk With Me team has shared the secrets of the barrios of Madrid and Barcelona through unconventional maps and guides.
Like a friend in your pocket the Walk With Me guides are a constant companion, compelling you to discard maps that are purely functional and escape into an illustrated world blurring the lines between the real and the imagined.
Enticing people into this world requires the talents of great illustrators – it takes considerable to skill to combine elements of fantasy with renderings of streets that are both recognisable and understandable. The project was born in Madrid where the first map was created, ‘I met Guillermo who is a good friend of mine now, we share an office’, Pablo explains, ‘we started to move around and meet new illustrators, friends of Guillermo and other friends, and suddenly we realised that there are a huge number of nice illustrators in Spain – this was the starting point’. With the project underway, ‘we did the Malasaña map and it was a huge success, we then did six maps here in Madrid before starting to cover Barcelona; I am from there so it was an easy place to start’, he continues, ‘I was in an artist collective called Penique Productions doing inflatable installations, here there was a guy who was a great illustrator and I contacted a few friends of his and we continued from there’.
Walk With Me was originally designed more as a service offering, ‘when we first started we were nine people’, he says, ‘there were so many companies asking for projects, like Heineken for a festival for example, but now I feel I don’t want to just provide a service to people’. Craving more creative freedom Pablo wanted to be in charge of his destiny, and with his current team of six he still has creative control over every stage of the journey: from design, to editorial, to production. ‘I don’t really understand clients; you hire me because you like my work but you have to tell me what you want me to do. I would get money to develop my products, but it was taking up a lot of my time. So, I became smaller and tried to focus on developing. Now I am my own boss, I can decide what I am able to do and that’s wonderful for us’, he says.
The initial seed of the idea came from the work of Pablo’s father, ‘he had a business related to tourism, based on distributing brochures and maps in hotels’, says Pablo, ‘so my first thought was to create a service company that involved developing a beautiful map with an illustrator, and then offering this to bars and shops from the neighbourhood to supply to the city’. However, Pablo struggled to catch the imagination of those he approached in Malasaña, proposing that they feature in the maps. Realising that the shops were more interested in selling the product than appearing in it, Pablo refocused and began to channel his efforts into developing his products. When Roam asks if Pablo studied design he laughs, saying, ‘I just learned design’ – initially trained in photography he worked in London for a time before returning to Spain, however he says, ‘when I came back I realised it was impossible to be a great, successful photographer here, no one can pay money for that at the moment, so I decided to begin something else.’
The process of starting a business here in Spain is often challenging, ‘for me, creatively, Madrid is amazing, but launching a business in Spain is horrible’, Pablo says, ‘but at the same time I was surrounded by creative and successful people, so for me that was a great place to start’. Although a young company of two years and three months, Walk With Me has succeeded in capturing the spirit of the past and Pablo takes a great deal of pride in this; his products are not just practical, they are beautiful objects to be saved and framed on the walls of his customers’ homes. Over time the range has expanded to include perfectly illustrated guides to find the best coffee in Barcelona and pop-up booklets of beautiful buildings, so it’s understandable that Pablo struggles to pick a favourite. Instead he says, ‘the maps have been the most successful – we sell them as posters – so in business terms that has been the most successful. I am most focused on the product’. The genius of Walk With Me is also in realising that locality is increasingly relevant, encouraging artists and illustrators to focus on the areas around them that they love, ‘we are discovering that as the cities are getting bigger and bigger, people aren’t getting any prouder of them, but they are proud of their neighbourhoods!’ Pablo hopes to one day move tourists away from the main thoroughfares, and encourage them to experience the thrill of discovering lesser-known corners of the world.
When we ask Pablo where he finds his inspiration, he says, ‘I don’t know, life?’ After careful consideration he adds, ‘sometimes we develop products to satisfy something missing from our lives, for example I once went to a bar and spilt coffee all over my notebook and from there came a waterproof product to solve it! We develop products out of necessity, they are things that we need’. The next step of the Walk With Me journey involves bringing the streets of London to life. ‘We’re doing seven maps and collaborating with seven illustrators’, Pablo says, ‘they aren’t all British, but they have all lived in London for the last five or six years, and they live in the neighbourhoods they are illustrating – we’re doing commercial areas like Portobello and Notting Hill, but also Peckham and Dalston, so it’s kind of a mixture’. When asked about his next step, Pablo says, ‘I’d like to move to Los Angeles, I’ve been here for five years and I’m starting to feel quite tired. I always need to be moving around and I always need new challenges. I will move with Walk With Me, I will move with everything I have!’