Life is Magnanimous: Rebeca Méndez and I
Art Center Catalog, 1995-96, 1994. Project partner: Art Center College of Design. Photo: Rebeca Méndez Studio There is one reason why I became the designer that I am today: Rebeca Mendez. It all goes back to more than two decades ago when I was starting out. I had completed an …
There is one reason why I became the designer that I am today: Rebeca Mendez. It all goes back to more than two decades ago when I was starting out. I had completed an Associate’s Degree in Los Angeles and I was working as an art director for a bilingual magazine. At the time, I was constantly frustrated at work as the ideas in my head never translated well into the final layout. My professors persistenly encouraged me to further my education. “You should go to Art Center College of Design,” They said, “You’ll get the tools needed to better your career.” To my young mind, ‘making it’ into the creative field seemed impossible. The famous designers whose work I admired looked so different from me. No one had my background or my ethnicity. Subconsciously I thought, “It’s a Caucasian club.” I wondered, “Is there a place for me in design?” “Why there are not designers of color out there?”
Nevertheless, encouraged by my professors, I drove my old white beetle to Pasadena, California to visit the world-renown Art Center. Have you ever been at the Pasadena Campus? When I got there, I was in awe at everything: the architecture, the student gallery, the shops, the views, and the all-encompassing creative spirit. What impressed me the most was the school catalog. It was one of the most exquisite pieces of graphic design I had ever held — these catalogs are now part of the Smithsonian’s Copper-Hewitt National Design Museum among many other collections.
Back at home I carefully looked at those catalogs enjoying page after page. Like a lover caressing your beloved’s hair, my fingers never got tired of feeling the ink and the paper. It was a long shot for a kid like me to get into an expensive school like that since I could barely afford an almost-free community college. Yet, something happened when I read “designed by Rebeca Méndez” in the production credits. Méndez was spelled with a tilde on top of the e. I felt something like an electric shock. The designer is a Latina! Suddenly this surge came into me, I found my role model! I worked tirelessly for many months putting together a portfolio to apply for a scholarship. Anytime I doubted myself, all I had to do was to hold Rebeca’s work to find the courage to keep going. Like a mantra I repeated over and over “I need to go to Art Center, I need to learn from Rebeca.”
Life is magnanimous. Not only I received a scholarship (after many trials), but also managed to take a typography class with Rebeca. Then, I did an independent study and, later, I ended up working for her until I moved to New York. To this day, I use everything I learned from Rebeca in my studio: Integrity, risk, beauty, mystery, experimentation, passion, and craftsmanship just to name a few. Whenever I complete a project I ask myself, “Would Rebeca approve it?“ Whenever I find myself in a critical situation, I asked myself, “What would Rebeca do?”
This coming Monday, Rebeca is being inducted into The One Club 2017 Creative Hall of Fame. One of the most prestigious awards in our industry, The One Club Creative Hall of Fame recognizes and honors innovators who represent the highest standards of creative excellence, and whose lifetime achievements have made significant contributions to visual communications.
Now there’s a word we use for people who don’t fit neatly into boxes.
Very curious. Very passionate. Very picky. Very quiet. Very brash. Very serious. Very funny. Very demanding. Very smart. Very odd. Very…anything.
They create big things. Great things. New things. New words. New codes. New tools. New ideas. New worlds.
Things that add depth to our lives. Open doors. Inspire the rest of us who talk and work with them.
I second Brian Collins’ musings. Meeting Rebeca has added depth to my life, has opened doors and has inspired me every time I talk or work with her.
Guess what’s else is happening this Monday at the One Club? I’ll be seating at Rebeca’s table celebrating this milestone and enjoying The One Club Creative Hall of Fame ceremony. Life is magnanimous.
The One Club 2017 Creative Hall of Fame takes place in New York City on Monday, September 18, and will induct industry luminaries Tom Burrell, Susan Hoffman, David Lubars, Rebeca Méndez and Diane Cook-Tench. Get your tickets here.