Summary of postmodern Mexican graphic design

Quinta Edición Junio 2008
Actualizado: Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 10:38

 Hay una versión en español de este artículo aquí.

I had the opportunity to meet graphic designer Ignacio “Nacho” Peon in 1997, in a course of typography given by Mr. Peon, in the masters course in creativity for design in The School of Design of Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, it did not take us long to notice he's passion for typography and for David Carson (his mentor), we also perceived his outstanding boldness as designer, his humbleness and excellent attitude as professor. One of his suggestions to the group was the book “The end of print” (written by Carson and Blackwell) in which Carson mention his work for the first time, this being due to his widely commented designs all along his successful career; At that time, Carson and Peon ideas were surprising for their audacity and personal expression, before them it could only be seen in artistic work -not in modern graphic design-. In this course Peon commented that he had been Carson's pupil in the United States, this is why I consider him and admirer of Carson's work, even the guidelines of such course in Bellas Artes fallowed the experimented tendencies of Carson.

So we can speak of characteristics shared by both designers, this are: Mixed personal expression, exploration and innovation; they ignore established rules for a good design (1), as are legibility rules, clean layouts and use of columns., in both designers work text is frequently used as image more than only words with the purpose of conveying a message; they insert personal artistic work -forbidden for traditional designers-; the design itself becomes “a part of“, more than just a means to the message (2).

Even though Peon's work an Carson's work have ideas things in common, Peon started to work as commercial designer from the beginning in “The O” magazine, whereas Carson started publishing the alternative music magazine “Ray gun” ; so Peon has worked in both areas of design simultaneously, we can see his work in “Matiz” o “Tiypo” magazines, but we can also see it in mass consumption magazine “Cine premier”; on the contrary Carson left alternative or radical design years ago to dedicate himself in full time to design for transnationals enterprises like “Nike” o “Coca cola”, amongst others.

In relation to the experimental part of Peon's work, he asks questions such as: Why does all typography have to be beautiful? Why can it not be ugly? In fact this was the subject of and article for design magazine “Matiz” in 1997 dedicated to his work, in which a typographic designer called “fea” is mentioned: “Fea is a project that emerges, no doubt, against everything that is considered a 'beautiful design' it's purpose is to make us think about the possibility that we have of experimentation in all creative process. Nowadays, we have methodology and technique that added to technological advances unite to help the designer obtain a certain image idea, the essential part of experimentation has remained passive in the majority of cases” (3).

This project is, no doubt, a sample of his desire of experiment not only to use the existent visual formulae; so many traditional designers were alarmed when they notice that reading “Matiz” magazine -where Peon participated- was difficult to read most of the time; however, the truth is that many designers were impressed by visual impact of “Matiz” magazine, especially young designers.

So far we have talked about Peon's work however, it is important to mention the lack of information there is, regarding the work of Mexican graphic designers (not just Peon), here is no analysis or theory on this, what little we can find is in design magazines with few contents, that is with no substantial information, on the contrary the information that is found is very “light”, to give it a name., and it is not that designers are not interested in this subjects, what happens is that no one wants to make the effort to write about this, nowadays some efforts are being made to improve this condition of Mexican graphic design in magazines like “Tiypo” and even “Matiz” magazine which disappeared more than ten years ago.

So that it is difficult to find biographical data of Nacho Peon, due to what we mention previously and that he is a very young working designer, in 1997 he most have been approximately twenty nine years old, now he should be about forty. In “Matiz” magazine celebrated number nine (especial number on typography) he is mentioned “Nacho Peon got his graphic design degree at Universidad Iberoamericana. He has participated in several editorial projects such as: “Golem”, “The O”, “Laberinto” y “Complot”. He co­participated in the creation of “Pellejo” editorial which publishes the experimental magazines: “Numero” y “Fea”. Nowadays he is working on animation and logotypes for a t.v. enterprise ” (4). The following appears in an Internet page: “Nacho Peon, with more than ten years experience in illustration, graphic design and typography, continues working in the limits of visual experimentation in printed and electronic media. His work has been described as muscular, organic texturized, weird, risky and with humor” (5).

The last I heard of Nacho Peon was through his sister Monica Peon (who has a degree from UAM­Atzcapotzalco Mexico) and The Art Academy of Cranbrook in Michigan, considered a very important part in the history of design, due to its graphic experimentation, among other aspects) (6). In 2003, Monica Peon gave a conference at “1er Foro de diseno experimental espacio fenomeno” in the city of Guanajuato, we talked at the end of the conference, she commented that her brother Nacho had gotten married and had gone to work in Canada, that he was doing very well, that he was working on animation for a t.v. channel and he had no plans to return to Mexico; Monica on the contrary, had just opened studio “Igloo design” with other partners in Mexico city and that moment she considered that the future of graphic design is going for a more personal design in opposition to commercial design in which the ideas are repetitive.

Finally, I believe that it is very regretful that outstanding graphic designers have to go to first world countries to be able to live better, while all the designers that stay home we design to “cut edge for food” (picar piedra), due mainly to ignorance of graphic design and anybody that has the necessary software is consider a “designer”. In spite of this, Nacho and Monica Peon are pioneers in postmodern graphic design in our country, in finishing their education in the United States and other countries, they brought with them to Mexico the principles of design of the mid nineties, which renewed Mexican graphic design of that time and, no doubt has left a very important mark even to our days.


Quotation index

(1)   Swiss School of Design> Established in the 1950-s in Switzerland and Germany. The characteristics in this design movement, include the “visual unity of design achieve by means of asymmetric organization of design elements, on a mathematically drawn net…”., its ideas included reaching the maximum on clarity and order in design. “…defines design as an important and socially useful activity and rejected personal expression and excentric solutions and in its place they adopted a more universal and more scientific approach for the solution of the problems of design…” Its roots come from movements The Stijl and Bauhaus. The majority of schools and universities in Mexico are still teaching under this principles. (B. Meggs, Philip. Historia del diseno grafico, edit. McGraw Hill/Mexico/2a edicion, p. 320).

(2)  Based on Harper, Laurel. “Radical graphics”, Edit. Chronicle books-San Francisco CA-Primera edición- 1999. p-14.

(3)  Martínez, Domingo Noé. “Diseñando con la más fea o las tipografías torturadas por Nacho Peón”. Revista Matiz gráfico del diseño internacional. México- 1997, número 2, año I, volumen I.p.p. 34-37.

(4)  Revista Matiz gráfico del diseño internacional. México-1997, Número 9, año I, volumen I. p.p.4.


(6)  Suggestion, “History of graphic design” by Philip Meggs, editorial McGraw Hill, to know more about Cranbrook Academy of Art.


Translator, B.A. Rosalinda S. Oviedo Garza.