Across Borders: A Look at the Work of Latinx Designers

Selected from AIGA's Design Archives, Design Journeys, and video archives, this collection focuses on and celebrates the contributions of Latinx designers to the field of communication design during the last fifty years.

Equality for All (2015) by Luis FitchOriginal Source: AIGA Design Journeys: Luis Fitch

Across Borders: A Look at the Work of Latinx Designers

Latinx designers work across a wide range of boundaries—cultural differences, language barriers and geographical constraints. These challenging juxtapositions and complexities often result in new perspectives to solving design problems, some of which are highlighted in this collection, proudly presented by AIGA. Whether it’s designing highly influential book covers, developing title sequences for legendary films, or creating bold illustrations that elicit political discourse, designers with Latin American roots have made indelible contributions to the field of communication design. We hope this initial spotlight opens the door to further document and honor the impact that Latinx individuals have had on design history and culture.

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) by Rodrigo Corral and Rodrigo Corral DesignOriginal Source: AIGA Design Archives. Collections: 50 Books/50 Covers of 2007

Rodrigo Corral, Rodrigo Corral Design

Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Diaz described him as the guy who “seems to strike like lightening.” Novelist Chuck Palahniuk said, “as proof of his gift, I’ve seen thousands of young people tattooed with the images he’s created.” Praise has been lauded on the clear, cutting art and design of Rodrigo Corral for years and from various voices. He’s been celebrated by the writers whose books he’s designed covers for, in the prestigious pages of The New Yorker and the Wall Street Journal who have featured profiles on the designer, and by institutes like AIGA, the Art Directors Club, and SPD who have presented Corral with numerous awards.

Madeline Morley, AIGA Eye On Design

Decoded, Rodrigo Corral, Rodrigo Corral Design, 2010, Original Source: AIGA Design Archives. Collection: 50 Books/50 Covers of 2010
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You’ll recognize Corral’s stamp on the covers of books by Vladimir Nabokov, Jean-Paul Sartre, Gertrude Stein, Jorges Luis Borges, Jay-Z, and Mary Kate and Ashley Olson. The diverse images he creates deviate from what’s trendy; they aim higher into the realm of the enduringly iconic.

Madeline Morley, AIGA Eye On Design

The Way It Wasn’t: From the Files of James Laughlin, Rodrigo Corral, Rodrigo Corral Design, 2006, Original Source: AIGA Design Archives. Collections: 50 Books/50 Covers of 2006
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Project description

James Laughlin—poet, ladies’ man, heir to a steel fortune, and the founder of New Directions—was still at work on his autobiography when he died at 83. He left behind personal files crammed with memories and memorabilia. Early on, the editors Barbara Epler and Daniel Javitch decided to present this material in alphabetical order with the occasional photograph. When Rodrigo Corral and Gus Powell got involved with the book’s design and got access to the wealth of physical material in the files, the nature of the book quickly evolved into a four-color scrapbook in which the ephemera would serve as evidence of Laughlin’s eccentric and prolific life.

AIGA Design Archives

O Livro Amarelo do Terminal (2008) by Elaine Ramos and Cosac NaifyOriginal Source: AIGA Design Archives. Collections: 50 Books/50 Covers of 2008

Elaine Ramos, Cosac Naify

Project description

This book is about one of the biggest bus stations in the world, the Terminal Rodoviário Tietê in São Paulo. Structured in a totally unconventional way, the narrative is constructed from a collage of the uncountable voices that circulate inside the station—from the testimonies of travelers and station workers to loudspeakers, songs, newspaper and magazines headlines, warning signs and so on.

AIGA Design Archives

Coleçao Moda Brasileira (Brazilian Fashion Collection), Elaine Ramos, Cosac Naify, 2007, Original Source: AIGA Design Archives. Collections: 50 Books/50 Covers of 2007
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Project description

This series of five books is about Brazilian contemporary fashion designers. The bindings are exposed so you can see the colored threads and the edges of the folded sections. They are also “dressed” by a folded dust jacket, which is made from a different material for each volume, according to the content. The interior of each book combines fashion looks and references in different ways, configuring a structure that dialogs with the artists’ style. But the external shape assures the series’ identity, without neglecting each artist’s individuality.

AIGA Design Archives

The Fortune Innovation Conference (2005) by Susana Rodríguez de Tembleque and Stone Yamashita PartnersOriginal Source: AIGA Design Archives. Collections: AIGA 365: 27 (2006)

Susana Rodríguez de Tembleque, Stone Yamashita Partners

Project description

The Fortune Innovation Conference attracted attendees that included CEOs, directors and managers. Our objective was to communicate with them on several different levels and to make the experience valuable to anyone charged with driving change and innovation within their organizations. Using the concepts of culture, roles, processes and models that we developed with GE, we set out to build an experience that would make abstract concepts real for participants. In doing so we designed and built a hands-on “lab” where participants could try out new techniques and engage in a dialog about what works and what does not. We also created several presentation and exercise tools for participants, including a guide to the “World’s Largest Innovation Lab,” a workbook that enabled participants to further explore each exercise, as well as share the experience and innovation process with colleagues who were unable to attend.

AIGA Design Archives

Equality for All (2015) by Luis FitchOriginal Source: AIGA Design Journeys: Luis Fitch

Luis Fitch

Born in the border city of Baja, California, Fitch spent much of his childhood traveling across the United States-Mexico border between San Diego and Tijuana [...].

Fitch went on to earn his BFA at Art Center College for Design in Pasadena, California. After graduation, he cultivated clients through freelance gigs for small businesses in Southern California and Tijuana, whom he knew had something to gain from communication design [...].

Luis and his wife Carolina Ornelas founded UNO, a strategic cross-cultural design agency with a mission to bridge the formerly disparate United States and Latin American markets. Founded in Minneapolis, the demand for UNO’s services, like the neighborhood’s Latin American community, has since grown exponentially. “I give credit to being open-minded, not because I'm Mexican,” says Fitch.

Lindsay Reichart, AIGA Design Journeys

Medina Gothic (front) (2005) by Pablo A. MedinaOriginal Source: AIGA Design Journeys: Pablo Medina

Pablo Medina

Pablo Medina's father, a poet, moved to the United States from Havana, Cuba, and his mother from Bogotá, Colombia. He was born in Washington, D.C., and moved to New Jersey with his father soon after his parents divorced [...].

In 1990, while Medina was in college, his mother moved to Cartagena, Colombia. Through his annual visits to see her he discovered the heritage he had known little about. “I was on a search for my own culture, and here was a treasure chest of it,” he says. He re-learned Spanish and started digging into Latin American art and culture [...].

He also found typography—wild, hand-painted signs that...led to his MFA thesis: three typefaces—Vitrina, Cuba and North Bergen—inspired by the signs [...].

William Bostwick, AIGA Design Journeys

Medina Gothic (back), Pablo A. Medina, 2005, Original Source: AIGA Design Journeys: Pablo Medina
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“When I'm curious about something,” such as hand-painted signs or baseball, “I have to ask, 'Now what do I do? Do I make a film or a typeface?' It's like saying, 'Now who am I? Colombian or Cuban?'” For Medina, graphic design and filmmaking, like Cuba and Colombia, are cut from the same cloth: They're ways to understand culture.

William Bostwick, AIGA Design Journeys

More Magazine (2010-05) by Claudia de AlmeidaOriginal Source: AIGA Design Journeys: Claudia de Almeida

Claudia de Almeida

Brazilian-born graphic designer Claudia de Almeida was raised in Novo Hamburgo by a single mother who worked at a bank in the loan department [...].

As a student at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, she studied with designer Carin Goldberg, one of her idols, and then went on to work at More Magazine with creative director Debra Bishop (who had also studied with Goldberg). “It was like completing a circle for me. A girl who was born in the smallest town in São Paulo and grew up in the south of Brazil,” says de Almeida. “To come up and study in New York with my design heroes? I was given a great opportunity to be exposed to amazing people.”

Angela Riechers, AIGA Design Journeys

Wired magazine, 20th anniversary issue, Claudia de Almeida, 2013, Original Source: AIGA Design Journeys: Claudia de Almeida
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In 2014 de Almeida went out on her own, forming a design firm called O Banquinho (The Tiny Bank) with partner Margaret Swart, a former Wired colleague. They envision a multidisciplinary studio, taking on a mix of branding, art direction, experience design, and web design.

Angela Riechers, AIGA Design Journeys

Björk “Cocoon” CD (2002) by Rafael Esquer and @radical.mediaOriginal Source: AIGA Design Archives. Collection: AIGA 365: 24 (2003) + AIGA 365: 25 (2004) + AIGA Jurors (2004)

Rafael Esquer

Rafael Esquer was born in Huatabampo, a city on the Sea of Cortez in Mexico [...].

Early on he latched on to the idea of becoming an architect. His fascination with typography drew him to study graphic design at Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana.

In 1989, he moved to Los Angeles, intending to stay there just for a year to improve his English. One year turned into many more. To support himself he worked the graveyard shift at the 7-Eleven on the intersection of La Brea and Sunset Boulevard [...].

He took graphic design classes at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College and got a job as a designer at a Hispanic alternative weekly; within two months he was promoted to art director. In 1993, he got into the Art Center College of Design, in Pasadena.

In 1996, he arrived in New York. His work at won him accolades, including a National Design Award from the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, in 2004. Impressed by Esquer's ability to help win pitches,'s CEO and chairman Jon Kamen gave him carte blanche to step in and elevate the design group's work. Esquer's projects included art directing the packaging for Bjork's single Cocoon and a TV spot for George Harrison's album All Things Must Pass. Collaborating with Oscar-winning costume designer Eiko Ishioka, he created racing suits and uniforms for the 2002 Winter Olympics. In 2004, he founded alfalfa studio.

APitchaya Sudbanthad, AIGA Design Journeys

Join Us, Rafael Esquer, alfalfa studio, 2006, Original Source: AIGA Design Journeys: Rafael Esquer
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“When I saw Picasso's work, it just looked like something fun—I wanted to do that. I knew for sure that I wanted to travel, learn from other cultures, be challenged and have friends from all over the world.”

Rafael Esquer

Brand CAChé (2006) by Edel RodriguezOriginal Source: AIGA Design Journeys: Edel Rodriguez

Edel Rodgriguez

As a boy, the Cuban-born artist, illustrator, designer and art director made his way to Florida on one of the first boats leaving his native land. Freedom. He later broke with the traditions of his culture by leaving home after high school to attend college in New York. Freedom. He left his well-paid position at Time after 13 years so he could devote his energies to his illustration, fine art and family. Freedom means a lot to Edel Rodriguez; he's seen first hand the consequences where there is no freedom—where the words are always can't and don't.

Charles Hively, AIGA Design Journeys

Edel Rodriguez was born in Havana, Cuba in 1971. In 1994, Rodriguez graduated with honors in painting from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. In 1998, he received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Manhattan’s Hunter College graduate program. Throughout his career, Rodriguez has received commissions to create artwork for numerous clients, including The New York Times, TIME Magazine, The New Yorker, and many other publications and book publishers.

Edel Rodriguez

Designing for people at the greatest time of need (2016-10-19) by Eduardo F. OrtizOriginal Source: Videos from the 2016 AIGA Design Conference

Eduardo Ortiz

Eduardo F. Ortiz is a creative director at the United States Digital Service at the Department of Homeland Security [...]. He is a co-founder of BKUX, one of the fastest growing design communities in Brooklyn, New York. He is also a local leader for the Interaction Design Association (IxDA) a member-supported organization dedicated to the discipline of interaction design, and a volunteer for the Information Architecture Institute an organization focused with making information clearer and easier to use. He has spoken at past conferences on topics about measuring user experience, empathy, and team building.

AIGA Design Conference

Dr. Strangelove (1964) by Pablo FerroOriginal Source: Video: Pablo Ferro receives the 2009 AIGA Medal

Pablo Ferro, 2009 AIGA Medalist

Pablo Ferro is a Cuban-born, Los Angeles-based designer whose body of work includes the groundbreaking openers for films as varied as Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Hal Ashby's Being There (1979), and Gus Van Sant's To Die For (1995) [...]. Ferro's designs captivate through kinetic urgency, drawing viewers into, around, through and over dynamic, graphic landscapes that do a lot of work: introducing a film's credits, setting the stage for the story to come, and underlining the fact that motion pictures are about nothing if not motion.

Holly Willis

Going fast to nowhere (2016-10-18) by Sebastián PadillaOriginal Source: Videos from the 2016 AIGA Design Conference

Sebastián Padilla, Anagram

Founded seven years ago in Monterrey, Mexico, Anagrama is still something of an enigma. Partners Sebastian Padilla and Mike Herrera established their branding, architecture, and software development firm with as few limitations in mind as conceivable. Their specialties span the branding spectrum, from strategic consulting to logotype, illustration, graphic design, custom software, interior design, and architecture.

Jude Stewart, AIGA Eye on Design

Today, Anagrama’s clients are split roughly 50-50 between the United States and Mexico.

Scott Kirkwood, AIGA Eye on Design

Video: AIGA Design Conference

Nearly 30% of the US population will be Latino by the year 2050, yet, only 48% of Latinos eligible to vote turned out on election day in 2012. The policies under discussion during this election make it imperative that this year they take a more active role in the democratic process that will shape the future of their community and of the country at large.

I invited Mr. Edward James Olmos to provide his iconic image as a trusted leader in the Latino community to urge people to register and vote. Mr. Olmos’ decisive facial expression is intended to reflect the message: “this year your vote is a serious matter—register to vote!”

Agustín Garza, AIGA National Board

Vote (2004) by Antonio AcaláOriginal Source: Antonio Acalá, 2008 AIGA DC Fellow

Antonio Alcalá, 2008 AIGA DC Fellow

Antonio Alcalá graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in history and from the Yale School of Art with an M.F.A. in graphic design. After working as a book designer and freelance graphic designer, Alcalá opened Studio A in 1988. Since then his studio has won awards of excellence in design from local, national and international design institutions including AIGA, Print, Communication Arts and Graphis. His clients include the National Gallery of Art, Library of Congress, National Portrait Gallery, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, National Museum of Women in the Arts, National Geographic Society, Folger Shakespeare Library, The Phillips Collection and the Smithsonian Institution. Alcalá is an adjunct faculty member of the Corcoran College of Art + Design and founder of the design education program DesignWorkshops. He serves on the board of the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association, is a past president of the Art Directors Club of Metropolitan Washington and judged AIGA’s “50 Books/50 Covers of 2007” competition. The AIGA DC Chapter selected Alcalá, based in Alexandria, Virginia, as its 2008 AIGA Fellow. His work is represented in the AIGA Design Archives and the Library of Congress Permanent Collection of Graphic Design.

AIGA Fellows

ArtCenter College of Design Catalogue 1995–96 (1995) by Rebecca MéndezOriginal Source: AIGA Medalist: Rebeca Méndez

Rebeca Méndez, 2017 AIGA Medalist

Born in Mexico and now living in Los Angeles, Rebeca Méndez thrives on the threshold of disciplines and cultures, working in the boundary spaces between art and design, and between Mexico and the United States. Méndez has received many awards for her excellence in design. In 2012 she received the National Design Award in Communication Design from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum for her work that is now in their permanent collection. Her designs have spanned solo exhibitions across the world, from San Francisco to Venice to Oaxaca.

Margaret Andersen

Rebeca Méndez: 2017 AIGA Medalist (2017)Original Source: Rebeca Méndez, 2017 AIGA Medalist

In 2017, Rebeca Mendéz became the first Latina to receive an AIGA Medal.

Credits: Story

Exhibition curated by AIGA Diversity & Inclusion task force members Jessica Arana, AIGA Los Angeles and Julio Martínez, AIGA San Francisco, in collaboration with Heather Strelecki, AIGA's archives director and Laetitia Wolff, AIGA's strategic initiatives director.

Selections and descriptions are from the AIGA Design Archives as well as essays commissioned by AIGA for designers profiled in the AIGA Design Journeys series or awarded the AIGA Medal. Additional sources include AIGA Fellows and AIGA Design Conference presenters.

All works are the copyright of their respective owners. Learn more about AIGA, the professional association for design and its mission at

More: AIGA archives and special collections

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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