Forbes Ec: The Ecuadorian Thirdlings go to conquer the world – Forbes Ec article

written by Mónica Mendoza

Published by Forbes Ec on december 20th, 2021. Link here.

Picaia is the brand created to bring together, in a box, the original design of figures and the ancient techniques of artisans in the country. The Guayaquil designer Nuno Acosta’s project is based on fair trade, a new storytelling and shows the world the original product.

Nuno Acosta has created a new civilization called Thirdlings (Tercerícolas), the first inhabitants of the Third World. It is the third planet after the Sun, with a population of creators and artisans with ancient skills, whose vestiges begin to be unearthed in 2021. The characters are original artisan figures, inspired by the Valdivia culture, 4,000 years old, which are transformed into the product of origin Picaia box and that goes out to the world to expose the Ecuadorian culture.

The first series of 36 Tercerícolas figures is ready. They are made in a limited edition of black (or noir) and clay colors by Juan Orrala, a 78-year-old artisan from the Valdivia commune, in the province of Santa Elena. The characters are The Bringer and the heir; the Seer, with three eyes on his body that see the past, the present and the future; and the Linker, a leader of his people. Each character is accompanied by a base, an accessory, a seal of originality and are packaged in a box.

Nuno, a creative from Guayaquil with more than 20 years of experience in design and communication, is the founder of Picaia together with his wife María Gabriela Campoverde, a specialist in intellectual property. Together they created a brand that allows packaging original crafts that connect designers with artisans from Ecuador. Picaia box is based on fair trade, with new storytelling, which leads the Ecuadorian artisan product to compete in the global market, with creative and cultural responsibility.

The story of the Thirdlings seems like a science fiction script and began to be written in the months of the confinement of the pandemic. The married couple, with their two children, became a digital nomad. And when they were in Miami, they noticed that Wynwood, the well-known art and design district, was still active. People went and removed the signature products that were made to order. He thought about the talent of the Ecuadorian artisan and how he was selling his creations. “It is not a problem of branding, of how the brand is managed, but of marketing, it is not being marketed well. The artisan is not selling his product to the people who should buy from him, because in the world there is a market for those who buy a Gucci suit for thousands of dollars or glasses for US$ 5,000 and there are people who do not measure up to buy a US hat. $500,” he explains. They had already noticed that with the project My name is, before the pandemic and they reaffirmed it months later.

Nuno believes that the problem is that the craft is not sold by the person who produces it, but by an intermediary. For traceability, the buyer must know the origin, the artisan, and the fair price must be paid. So, he thought “what if I make the designs and look for the craftsman to make the ideas”.

Back in the country, the family settled in Salinas and visited the Valdivia commune where he discovered

an artisan with an innate ability to make clay figures using ancient techniques. Since he was six years old he began to create the figurines of the Venus of Valdivia. He also met his daughter Jennifer, a millennial graduate in Tourism, who is in charge of communication and logistics for the business.

“I give you my designs and you make them, with a confidentiality agreement.” Thus they began to work on the prototype that was ready in April of this year. The first doll was “fat”. Then it dried as the water contained in the clay dehydrated, it became compact and began to be polished. Don Juan put his Valdivian patterns on it and entered the oven at a high temperature. No figure is the same, they are unique and unrepeatable pieces. The entire artisan process in Valdivia, which takes between six and eight weeks, is documented.

“We have created a new type of contemporary art. Tercerícolas is an artisanal innovation, it is a new contribution to the Ecuadorian culture of which I am a fan”, Nuno points out. “Everything is under a meta-concept called Welcome to the Third World. I am proud of my people and if we use the same marketing, branding and e-commerce tools the world becomes smaller, that is what our artisans need and I learned it in 16 years of working in advertising; the difference is in putting a package, with a concept and social responsibility”.


Nuno was not born as Nuno 41 years ago. He was born as Edmundo, but his sister Maria Lissette could not pronounce his name. “He gave me the nickname when I was one year old. I am a product of branding, Edmundo was not a commercial name, he called me Nuno and it changed my life”, she jokes. Over time it became his name, his personal brand and his company name. He started working in the advertising and communication industry in 2000. In 2020, as a “premonition”, he became independent and founded Nuno Estudio that designs creative experiences. The pandemic hit and he had to return the office he had rented. Now his art studio is in a living room of his house, next to his children’s play area. It is full of posters, figures, books, drawings and samples of two other enterprises that he has, Chocosapiens and Tropiquo.

There he works on the tests to find the ideal box for Picaia. “In my work as a manager, designer and linker I never stop, I always try to improve the design, to test packaging, the less the packaging costs, the more useful it will be.” Juan Orrala sets the price of the figures and pays him for his work. The craftsman and the designer earn the same, but Picaia less, although the percentage is under study and will depend on operating costs. Currently the box with the product is valued at US$ 90. If the demand is good, the value will increase and the utility will be shared between the parties.

Until now, without quantifying the creative and design contribution of this project, Nuno has made a personal investment of US$16,000. “I haven’t calculated, but if I had to hire a designer, an agency to handle communications, a cinematographer, a story writer, I think the price would double or triple.”

He points out that the good thing about creating is that he began to meet other creators and network with entrepreneurs. In the Picaia box process there is an artisan, a serigrapher, a factory that makes cardboard and another that makes packaging, another that made the label, an audiovisual producer. “If you realize it is a creative industry, I had an idea but I needed more than nine people to translate it”.

One of them is Bio fábrik, a Guayaquil venture founded by César Silva. He has created a resistant and light material with an edible fungus, with which the inner packaging of the box is being tested. This will allow obtaining a product of organic, ecological, sustainable and biodegradable origin. In addition, the developers of the boxes, audiovisual production, cultural advice and intellectual property.


Nuno has created a total of 47 characters of the Thirdlings and only three have been manufactured. Starting in February and March 2022, three more models will be produced. Production will be limited, no more than 100 of each. He will also be working on a jewelry line that is already designed. His plans are to contact artisans from other parts of the country to continue producing other Thirdlings inhabitants. San Antonio de Ibarra will be the next stop, a place known for its wood craftsmen. He also wants to connect with artisans of weaving, bamboo cane, from the Amazon, fishermen.

Trademark registrations in several categories have already been made in Ecuador and the United States, as demand increases it will do the same in Asia and Europe. In addition, he is developing the e-commerce website, the niche marketing plan, the public relations management. On the page you can already pre-order the handmade figures. An initial line of connection with buyers will be museums, such as the Anthropological and Contemporary Art Museum (MAAC), in Guayaquil, collectors and people who love this type of art.


As if to add more fiction to the Thirdlings, Nuno says that the name of the product was the first thing he created and kept it for 20 years. He remembers one of those dull, sleepy days, when he was 21 years old, he was watching the Discovery Channel on the internet and an archaeologist was telling a gripping story. He asked if they were willing to bet on a little worm without a brain or eyes that would conquer this planet, then he replied that this animal was Picaia and was the origin of the human being, apparently. This is how the concept ‘Picaia, the first of its kind’ was born. According to scientific publications, Pikaia (with k) is an extinct animal known from Middle Cambrian invertebrate fossils and found near Mount Pika, to which it owes its name. The fossil deposit dates back to 505 million years ago called the Burgess Shale, in British Columbia. (I)