Visual Literacy: Research Pt.3

Victor Melendez

Victor Melendez describes himself as a Graphic designer and Illustrator. He originates from Mexico City but currently lives and works in Seattle. He works within the Starbucks creative design team but also seems to keep himself busy with side projects.

I was drawn by his work with Starbucks and surprised to see how different his personal work seems. I think this is a strength, as clearly he can bring his knowledge and skills and some of his personal style into projects for a client in such a way that it carries the clients branding rather than his personal take.

To try and explain I’ll show some of his work for Starbucks and then some personal projects and talk about both:

Starbucks projects:

Starbucks tumbler designs by Victor Melendez

Starbucks tumbler designs by Victor Melendez

I really admire the use of shapes which are slightly offset and in different copper/brown shades and the use of foil to add interest/texture. I think the look is clean but fun it does in some way remind me of a print made in a more traditional way even though it’s clearly a digital design. He made the designs seem warm and interesting without feeling too exclusive or fancy to be usable. I’m not sure how to explain why it’s like that though!

Duke Ellington CD cover by Victor Melendez

Duke Ellington CD cover by Victor Melendez

Close up of Duke Ellington CD cover by Victor Melendez

Close up of Duke Ellington CD cover by Victor Melendez

I think the above CD cover is brilliant. I like the orange lettering which looks hand drawn which seems fitting and gives a sense of movement and freedom which I think fits well with a jazz record. Then there’s that clever cut out of his side profile which reveals a portrait of Duke Ellington inside the sleeve.

Hand drawn type:


Samples of Hand drawn type by Victor Melendez

Samples of Hand drawn type by Victor Melendez

The interesting thing about these hand drawn pieces is the use of colour to symbolize the thing in subject. So the Brazil sign is in green and yellow which are colours associated with the country, ‘Oceans of fun’ is blue and striped and the letters sit slightly misaligned, which reminds me of the ocean, always moving, teeming with life. Even though the signs have a different feel to them there seems to be a commonality in their cleanness and the use of lines to encapsulate each letter or word.

'It all starts with a sketch' by Victor Melendez

‘It all starts with a sketch’ by Victor Melendez

'Bride' based on Kill Bill by Victor Melendez

‘Bride’ based on Kill Bill by Victor Melendez

Other personal work:

'Poster for Dead of the dead exhibition' by Victor Melendez

‘Poster for Dead of the dead exhibition’ by Victor Melendez

'Calaver Agua' by Victor Melendez

‘Calaver Agua’ by Victor Melendez

The two pictures above are a sample of lots of similarly themed work which Victor seems to generate. His personal work seems to often revolve around skulls, the day of the dead, spiritualist themes. Whilst this isn’t a subject area I’m really interested in, his delivery is worth commenting on. Most of these pieces contain those thick curved lines coming from a central character, this gives a flow or movement to his work. It adds something dynamic, but there’s also a bold dynamic in the contrasting colours or complementary colours.  He nearly always leaves space around the edges of an illustration which also acts to balance things out and draw the eye into the central busyness/colour. i think this helps stop the work becoming crowded which is something I could learn from, I feel a temptation to overcrowd a piece or illustration with lots of pattern.

Last few comments about his tools/tricks of the trade, if you look at his tumblr and blog you can see what pens/techniques he uses.

He seems to like using brush pens, and black ink pens. He also seems to enjoy doing some lino printing which is interesting as this is something I enjoy too. I think I’ like to try using some brush pens and trying to get that smooth curved edge to work to see if it gives a similar feel to that of his work.



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