Transcending the boundaries of art and design, Rebeca Méndez’s graphics explore delicate relationships between the organic and the digital.[1] Throughout her career, the Los Angeles-based Mexico native has maintained a fascination with the physical structures, forces and matter of nature. Today, her work is identified with the use of strong symbolism and bespoke typography.[2] Such an interdisciplinary and forward-thinking approach has garnered Méndez many accolades over the past three decades, including a 2012 Cooper Hewitt National Design Award.[3]

Méndez’s diverse body of work, including forays into film, light installation, and large-scale murals, has often addressed social and ecological issues. Her logos for architecture firms invoke the golden ratio, while a monograph about eco artists employed a natural element—fire—to burn a title into the book’s cover.[4]

“When I look at a piece of graphic design or piece of art,” Méndez once told Print magazine’s Andrea Codrington, “I have always been aware of how it makes me feel—not only emotionally, but physically.”[5] In a 1993 letter to the influential design magazine Emigre, Méndez described this association as “the veins, tendons, [and] skeletal structures [that lie] beneath the skin.”[6] For her, each design flattens different densities that combine to tell a specific story.[7]

Méndez’s poster design for the 1992 Kyoto ACCD International Design Conference exemplifies this layered approach. Into a distinctive disc-shaped design, the poster incorporates photography, color gradients, text, and stamped calligraphy. The conference’s curvilinear title flows from left to right, harmonizing with the different elliptical frames within the composition. In the catalogue for a 1998 retrospective of her work, Méndez described these ovoid forms as resembling the ripples a small stone makes when dropped in water: the trajectory of an idea.[8] Having studied, taught, and designed at Art Center College of Design, her poster acts as a metaphor for the Pasadena-based school’s development of a third campus in Japan. The poster’s Japanese calligraphy reads “One lifetime one meeting”—a statement as reflective of Méndez’s design sensibility as of the continuity between these campuses.

[1] “Diseño Communication Design.” YouTube. February 26, 2015. Accessed March 22, 2016.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYTkviZKX84.

[2] “Cooper Hewitt: Diseño Communication Design.” YouTube. February 26, 2015. Accessed March 22, 2016.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYTkviZKX84.

[3] “National Design Awards 2012 – Winners’ Panel,” YouTube, October 15, 2012, accessed March 22, 2016,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxjmwHeTJzI.

[4] Diseño Communciation Design

[5] Andrea Codrington. “Printed Matter: Rebeca Méndez.” I.D. The International Design Magazine (March/April 1994): 64.

[6] Rebeca Méndez to Emigre, 1993.

[7] Diseño Communciation Design

[8] Mendez, quoted in reasonsense ®: Recent Works by Rebeca Méndez, Gallery 1220 (Los Angeles: UCLA Department of Architecture, 1998)

This week, we are celebrating work of National Design Award winners, on the occasion of the announcement of this year’s honorees. The annual Awards program celebrates design, in a variety of disciplines, as a vital humanistic tool in shaping the world. Rebeca Méndez received the  award for Communication Design in 2012.

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