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Digging into design: Marta Cerdà’s cover for Vogue

As part of FIDO contents, we’re gathering here some women designers to talk about some of their works. The Digging into design section aims to focus on the method and the strategy to approach a design project, presenting specifically the ideas that stand behind it and the step-by-step.

Marta Cerdà Alimbau is a Spanish graphic designer specialized in custom typography and illustration. Her main work bounces between these two disciplines. For this chapter we talked with her about the cover she made for Vogue España in March 2021.

The thing that Marta likes most of the resulting cover is the fact that it’s done in 3D but when you look at it you don’t see the 3D. Thanks to the spray effect, there’s actually a sort of optical illusion that conveys analogical consistency and it’s able to transmit emotions:

“I like that it has warmth and that, even though it’s not perfect, it gives some emotions and this is very difficult to do” 

This aspect of the work was the most important to achieve because her idea, since the very beginning, was to show human strength and infuse some optimism in a moment–one year after the pandemia had started to spread–when humanity was anything but strong.

The whole project started when Oscar Germande –Vogue España art director– wrote an email giving her an assignment:

Marta goes on and admits that, even if it doesn’t often happen, it was quite easy to get to the final idea. The designer explained that on one hand, having constantly a lot of references going around, makes it more than likely that something that didn’t match with other projects may converge in another sooner or later. And, on the other hand, a previous work may have paved the way for a new idea.

“I thought it had to be similar to a Vogue cover. I used some previous Vogue covers to get to the right proportions between the subject and the background. I had a folder full of my favorite covers”.

All of the sudden, Marta says there’s one, crucial, thing about this work she shouldn’t tell us, but she tells us anyway, and it’s the fact that she wasn’t sure if this assignment was for the cover indeed or not. After a first moment of hesitation, when she thought to ask for further information, she decided it made no difference and to put all her efforts into this.

Such a cover may seem very unusual for a magazine like Vogue but, as Marta points out, earlier editions of the publication, during the 20’ and 30’, had more graphic than photographic cover, which usually entrusted its visual expression to illustration. Later on, faces—captured by amazing photographers—have become more and more frequent on the cover. So, in the end, we have to admit that indeed this one is quite in line with Vogue.

Last but not least, we were curious to know Marta’s approach with timing and deadline so we asked her if it’s better or worse having more time and, sometimes, even not having a deadline at all:

We also had the chance to talk with Marta about men-and-women presence in the design office, and the potential disparity regarding assignment, fees and credibility. The Spanish designer feels a sort of lack of action concerning that point:

“I decided to apply the 5×5 rule, in case it would actually go on the cover: this means that you should instantly recognize a cover in a distance of 5 feet in a time span of 5 seconds. So it’s to be simple but super straight. So that’s why I wanted to work with color blocks“:

In addition to disparity, Marta also points out the difficulty of work-life balance for women designers due to the fact that, no matter what you do, it’s never enough.

“No one knows how much you are judged in your work when you are a mother. Many women feel exhausted because of a lot of criticism from the outside: this makes you feel constantly you’re doing things in the wrong way, with your work—and your family. It always makes me think that I could do things better… It’s hard, but you don’t have to care about that, that’s what I try to do.”

We want to thank Marta for this first chapter of Digging into design and her insight into the design process. See you in the next episode with another exceptional guest!

*** All the images are property of ©MartaCerdà, you’ll need her permission to reproduce them 🙂

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