Chronicling Mexico's rich contributions to world culture and society, Origen México called upon the Blok team to help create an accessible and dynamic publication using their unique approach to book design.
Origen México was initiated to celebrate all of the talent, ideas, passions and thoughts that have arisen from Mexico and influenced the world while also raising funds for Fundación BECAR, a non-profit supporting accessible education in Mexico.
Blok had worked previously with independent editor and publisher Paola González Vargas on two books, México Kitsch and Lucha. One of the wonders of working with Paola is that she consistently highlights the magic of Mexico in everyday life. Paola is a passionate advocate of Mexico’s value and identity and all of the revenue from her books benefit independent non-profit organizations. In the case of Origen México, Adriana Sánchez-Mejorada from Ambar Editores joined the team to co-edit and publish this project.
This book carries personal weight as my children were born in Mexico and I owe much of who I am as a designer, and as a person, to the country. For me, this book is a value legacy to remind my children of the immeasurable and intangible magic of their origin.
This project was an especially unique experience as it coincided with our studio moving from Toronto to Berlin for two months. The process was entirely inspired by the experience of living in a new space and the multitude of new colours, iconographies and possibilities encountered through our own adventures.
As designers, our role is to reveal value where it lies. This does not always mean creating the biggest change, but it can be about taking advantage of opportunities to make an impact in the world. Beyond the design and format, we also worked on the research and curation of the book, which provided an opportunity to shape the visual language, tone and pacing.
This book was expansive in content and touched on many areas of Mexican culture. Imagery, cohesive flow and an emphasis on diversity were fundamental considerations to keep the book working as a whole. We researched examples of imagery that would represent the subjects most truthfully while also fitting the rhythm and flow of the publication. Working collaboratively with our clients and with an iconographic researcher was a deep and enriching experience that helped create a beautiful product.
There were many challenges since the sources of images were as diverse as the content itself. The publication contains beautiful stories of discovery, from the files of a musician Francisco Gabilondo Soler’s grandson to the Museo Tamayo’s private collection to a rare framed photo of Maria Felix in someone’s house.
It seemed impossible to manipulate some of the images that were so old we simply could not print them, and yet we did. Every time we saw one image that excited us we knew we were on the right track and that compromising was not an option. Inspired by a history of rich ephemera and hand processes, we manipulated worn out imagery with an old printed effect.
The book is structured alphabetically and chronicles Mexico’s rich contributions through curated subjects ranging from Luis Barragán and Frida Kahlo to Voladores de Papantla and the invention of colour television. The alphabetical structure meant we had to be extra careful in planning the pacing of the publication. We used different scales of type and imagery on each spread to establish a thoughtful flow and create intrigue, encouraging readers to pause and connect with the content as they moved through the book.
The tight schedule of this book, for which we had three months to complete from content development to printed piece, made it challenging in ways we could have never envisioned. To establish the quality of the piece within this timeline, we had to guess what would make sense for the format, paper and page quantity before we even started to design.This meant designing in our minds first.
We had to make all the content fit (although we did add 16 pages insanely close to our deadline) and expand in the pink section at the end. I always feel this is the gift that not knowing brings to a poetic process. When projects are too clearly defined from the start, designers miss the opportunity for chance to play a role and they lose the sense of possibility that exists with the unknown.
The colour on the book cover was originally yellow but even with double hit silkscreen and other spontaneous analog processes, the colour was not showing up strong enough on the salmon coloured paper. We mixed a pink that has no pantone match and a touch of neon on press to arrive at what we have now. Sometimes a project requires you to shift your expectations and in this case we actually arrived to a better place.
To reflect the diversity of Mexico's influence on the world, each subject includes a written summary of its unique qualities and impact. Dynamic imagery and playful use of colour throughout the book help emphasize the subject matter in a thoughtful way. The end of the book contains a timeline that uses pink carbon copy paper to offer secondary context to this atlas of illumination.
Origen México’s purpose is to instil a love of land and identity in every strata of Mexican society.
Inherent in the project itself was a social philosophy of making sure everyone could access this book regardless of their economic situation. We designed it alphabetically to be conceptually and economically easy to reprint and redistribute in sections to ensure it could travel far and wide across the Mexican territory.
We were humbled by the reception of the book and the many people who reached out with personal stories about their own love of the Mexican land and experience. For us this is what it is all about: touching people at their most personal level, because when that happens you know you are closer to life’s truths.
Published December 2019