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Talavera Lofts

This East Austin residence redefines the look and feel of affordable housing.

The identity for this property began with the architectural intent established by Nelsen Partners. Their design was inspired by the unusual wedge-shaped footprint of the site, the proximity to Austin's Metro Rail and the Saltillo Station, and by the property's namesake, which is a specific type of ceramic tile from Puebla, Mexico. Nelsen Partners were in the construction drawings phase when my identity design scope began.

For those unfamiliar with construction documentation phase of architecture, it is a highly technical moment in the process where architects, engineers and designers basically draw a custom instruction manual for how to build every aspect of a building, from soup to nuts. The CD set is handed off to a general contractor and interpreted by many different tradesmen and women, who, ideally, correctly interpret and build what is specified in the drawings. Original concepts are "baked into" the CD set drawings, but the concepts, intentions and values behind the CD set drawings have usually happened many phases before, if they happened at all.

Because the architectural project was in execution mode, my discovery process needed to shift the team's thinking back to strategy and empathy. I needed to uncover their original intent and amplify it so all of our efforts could be cohesive and coherent for the people who would one day walk the halls or call Talavera Lofts home.

I began my process with an experience map scope: a brief exercise in which the client/project team defines user groups for the property, their reasons for visiting it, their paths of travel on the visit, and the ideal outcomes from their visit. Below is a storytelling diagram I made for one of the user/visitor groups.

Then I mapped the storytelling diagram to plans of the actual building. Below is the ground floor journey map, which continues to the second-floor terrace for a literal "long-term view" of downtown Austin. The text in yellow are notes taken during the final deliverable presentation. The map was already spurring conversations laced with valuable design drivers for the identity and interior design scopes.

The experience map conversations produced design guidance for the property at the human scale for the amenity furniture, art program, signage, decor, and of course the visual identity. Because so much had already been created, it was an exercise in vocalizing original intentions, identifying gaps, and tying it all together.

Nelsen Partners had already created a stunning building that would later garner much praise in the architectural and civic communities. In addition to the unique building form, they had also designed an iconic wall of custom blue and white tiles that spans the north and west faces of the building, flanking its ground level main entrance.

Inspired by the tile designs, I created a family of word marks and icons that would take the intent of the building to other media and bring it closer to the human scale.

Interested in seeing some of this identity project's process?

Click here for 'How I Make' featuring Talavera Lofts.


Lead Strategy and Design for Identity Design Scope


Experience Map, Identity Design, Signage, Art & Decor Advisory Services


DMA Companies,


Nelsen Partners




Art + Artisans


AIA Austin Design Awards, Design Award of Excellence;

Texas Society of Architects, 2023 Design Award

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