Graphika Manila 2024 highlights Happy Garaje’s use of objects, spaces, and experiences as the storytelling medium

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — While some designers overseas draw inspiration from the cities they reside in, in the Philippines, the design studio Happy Garaje, based in Cebu, proudly embraces its role as the hometown artist of the city.

Founded by husband-and-wife duo Mark and Johanna Deutsch, Happy Garaje took center stage on Day 1 of Graphika Manila 2024 to take attendees on a journey spanning 15 years, along with a community of storytellers, designers, and artists who find constant inspiration in everyday objects, spaces, and experiences.

“One of the most special things about being an artist is that if you experience through ups and downs, you somehow use your art to try and understand what we’re going through,” said Mark.


“It takes a lot of bravery to put yourself out there, but it is important to tell your own story,” he emphasized.

For their part, Mark and Johanna have focused on local work and carving out a space for pocket events — opening their garage as a children’s book library and hosting storytellers’ nights that, to their surprise, gathered people from all walks of life like lawyers, accountants, and programmers.

“We found out that if you build a space wherein you’re not afraid to be ridiculed, you’re not afraid to be laughed at, most of the time, people would be willing to participate.”

From illustrations and art toys, they have been ideating and executing branding and design for packaging and places, including Red Lizard: an open brief for a taco joint that they fleshed into a concept with the full backstory of the greatest, baddest, and most magnificent Luchador of all time.

Among other projects they’ve done are the Kalibutan Project which helped artisans and souvenir makers during the pandemic, Duwa Children’s Festival which brought the children’s gaiety to go outdoors fresh off the pandemic, and Cebu Art Book Fair which provided a new medium of storytelling in printed form.

During their talk, Mark introduced the concept of Pangandoy, which is the Cebuano term for yearning in earnest desire. He asked, “If you could dream without the fear of failure, what would your life look like?”

“I think it’s important to share our dreams. We share a lot of our frustrations, the things that we need to do in life, but [the] sharing of dreams is also special because, a lot of times, our dreams are not just about us. It’s also about the people that we love, and the things that we want for our community, the things that we want for the environment and the future.”

From the simple question of what they want to do with their lives, Mark and Johanna have built a creative community that turns the everyday into creatures of whimsy, magic, and kindness. At the core of it all, their stance remains that “The creative spirit is in everyone, and everyone has a story to tell.”

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