The type designer and typographer Pablo Medina of Cubanica, recently produced a mural in San Francisco as a testament to the city’s wellspring of love. Here is the progression from original vernacular inspiration to inspired nuanced finish.
Medina told me he worked with Nolan Jones as his assistant and collaborator, who got approval from the Tattoo shop to paint on their wall and worked tirelessly helping Medina paint the mural. “The whole thing wouldn’t have happened without him.”
What triggered this mural? The fantastic people in San Francisco! San Francisco is a city filled with kind and generous people. I was there in the Spring of 2011 as part of an artist-in-residence program at California College of the Arts. Those four months in the Spring of 2011 weren’t always the easiest of times, but so many of those people gave so much of themselves to help me out. While I was there, I created a series of lettering paintings that used the many hand-painted signs in the Mission District as influence. One of those paintings became the blueprint for the mural.
Have you done murals before? Yes, one as a part of the DUMBO Arts Festival and another one in collaboration with the students in my Experimental Typography class.
The Mission district is a part of SF filled with murals. Was type a means of standing out? I didn’t think about doing a typographic mural as a way of standing out. Typography and lettering is just what I do. Many of the amazing murals in the Mission are figurative, so yes, since this one uses only lettering, I think it stands apart.
What’s been the response?
The most rewarding part of painting the mural was interacting with so many of the characters that passed through that alley. The first response that I got was usually a smile. After that, people would usually comment on how happy they were to have a new mural in that alley. My favorite response came from a local homeboy who rolled through the alley in his Lexus blaring some west coast hip-hop. With a tough frown, he looked at me, looked at the wall, then looked back at me and simply nodded in approval. The Mission District is of the few neighborhoods in SF that still has a bustling working class immigrant population. A pleasant and unexpected result of painting this mural was realizing the appreciation that these folks had for art, design and positive messages in their environment.
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About Steven Heller
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.