interview :: javier mariscal

I was recently very lucky to be given the opportunity by the London Design Festival to interview Javier Mariscal. He is a truly multi-disciplinary designer, his work ranging from branding to furniture design and from interiors to films.

Still from Chico and Rita

Still from Chico and Rita

Here’s what he had to say…

What’s the most important thing to know about you?

That depends on who is asking the question, whether it is a man, a woman, a client, or a relative!

What effect does being Spanish and specifically Valencian have on your work?

My origins are in the Mediterranean, which is really important in my work; the light, the colours, the climate, the diet, the culture… everything I do comes from the Mediterranean. If I had been born in Norway or in China, my work would be very different.

What are the biggest influences on your work; what inspires you?

I am inspired by the daily stuff, by what I see every day; and by art of course too. Painters such as Picasso, Klee, Miró or Lichtenstein are really important influences; but equally a coffee machine, a fridge, a motorbike or a tomato might inspire me.

Your career is incredibly multi-disciplinary; what effect does that have on your work? What’s your favourite discipline – if you had to choose just one?

I never wanted to dedicate all my time to working in just one discipline. I love experiences; I love taking on challenges; learning new things every day. I like making mistakes and learning from them. Luckily design is really broad and I work in all kinds of disciplines. Everything related to design always begins with drawing, but I don’t have a preference; I like all of them. I feel equally comfortable designing a logotype, a poster, an urban sculpture, a chair or a hotel.

Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao

Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao

Tell me about the Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao project. It’s been described as a “culmination of your multi-disciplinary career.” Do you agree? Did it feel like that at the time? 

Is true that the GHDB was the first luxury hotel entirely designed by a designer: the visual identity, signs, room interiors, the cafeteria, the bar, the restaurant, the terrace, staff uniforms, the website, decorative objects, ashtrays, plates, the sculpture in the atrium…

It was a huge project of which I’m very proud, because almost ten years later it is still working, it still seems current and it continues to be a successful hotel.

Tell me a bit about Cobi – the brief, the process you went through, the controversy at the time, how he won over the critics.

If I told you the whole of Cobi’s story, I would need pages and pages! I will just say that I created the mascot I wanted to create; a mascot that was unlike any other – which at first seemed odd, even ugly, but then people discovered that he was normal, just like each of us. Cobi was like any other world citizen; he liked to do everything and served for all: he could run a marathon, drink a beer and have a tapa in a bar. He was a great communicator, friendly and affectionate. If you met him, after a while you would like him and want to take him home with you. And after all, he was the most profitable mascot for the IOC in the history of the Games at that time.



Children seem to be a recurring theme in your career (Me Too, the ‘collective mural sculpture’ you worked with children to create in 1995, characters like Cobi and Twipsy) – what is it about working with children, and creating designs for them that appeals to you?

Children are more creative and intelligent than adults. Time and education make us dumber. It is a pleasure to work with them, to become submerged in their world, where there is still a lot of imagination and rebellion. Children can resist the chaos; they know how to manage it through play. We should never stop being children.

Your latest venture is into film animation with Chico and Rita, which looks amazing! How has that been different from the other disciplines you’ve worked in? What have you learnt? Have you enjoyed it?

It was like entering a strange new world. I had never done cinema until Chico & Rita. But I had the good fortune to be able to do it with Fernando Trueba; a great director who knows about cinema and taught me many things. I had good time, it has been a great experience and I’m happy with the result. It seems that people who saw it enjoyed it. It’s a shame that even more people didn’t go to see it; they would have had a good time.

Still from Chico and Rita

Still from Chico and Rita

Can you tell me a bit about the design process you went through in animating Chico and Rita?

The whole process of creation was based on the story we wanted to tell, the script. The script set the realistic style of the drawings, the rhythm, the colours, the type of animation. It is a film about music, Havana and New York, and all of that needed a determined look, not a Mariscal look but a Chico & Rita look.

How did you convey the high emotions of the story and the rich culture of Cuba?

With drawing, colour, realistic backgrounds, animation, soundtrack, the film’s rhythm, the passion that exists between Chico & Rita.

What were your influences for the animation style and colour palette you used?

For the animation, rather than influences, what we did was to experiment for over a year to find the best type of animation that would fit with the story. The colour palette was easier to find: Havana is bright, with bright colours and pastels: yellow, green, blue, orange… whereas New York is cooler, with many shades of grey and mild colours.

Still from Chico and Rita

Still from Chico and Rita

Have you got any more film projects planned – has this whetted your appetite, or are you keen to move onto a different discipline?

I would like to make a movie starring The Garriris, which happened in the 70s, in Barcelona, Formentera and Ibiza, but I still have to finish the script and find the money.

What advice would you give to up-and-coming designers?

Do what you want to do, not what the market asks of you. If you are able to innovate, the market will end up liking what you do. Be creative and don’t expect to succeed and earn money overnight. I’m 60 years old and I still haven’t managed to get rich! If you want to be rich and famous, do something else!

You’ve been described “as one of the world’s most innovative and original designers.” What drives your constant quest for ‘newness’?

I really don’t know… I’m not reflective, but I don’t stop drawing and working, and when you’re working all day at your desk and on the street; ideas come along. Also, I think you have to innovate, to find new solutions to make daily life better and less boring.

What’s your favourite colour?

All colours are nice.

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3 responses to “interview :: javier mariscal

  1. Thanks for the interview post! He sounds approachable and lovely. I so enjoyed his show at the Design Museum. Looking forward to seeing his work at Ron Arad’s Curtain Call at the Roundhouse, too.

  2. “Do what you want, not what the market asks of you.” Some of the best advice I’ve heard – keeping a balance of innovation, creativity and business are tricky, but it’s good to see a designer with such varied projects do it with panache!

    Rita and Chico is a wonderful film, I blogged about it myself last year

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