Get to know the Peter Pan of Spanish design, Javier Mariscal

Aditi Gaitonde Fernandes / October 16, 2017

The Peter Pan of Spanish design talks to us about his childhood, inspiration and design career.

He always makes an impression. Even over a 30 minute long telephonic interview, he left his mark. Describing Javier Mariscal’s ability to imprint on those who come across his work, Design Museum London’s Director Deyan Sudjic once rightly said, “The creation of an identity through a personal, distinctive style is a quality that will invest him with a perpetual power of attraction among the future generations of critics.”

He is bold, intuitive, humorous and inherently delightful, and his work transcends barriers of age, race and time…for happiness is universal and often contagious. Primarily a creator of images, Javier dons several hats – comic book creator, illustrator, graphic designer, industrial and textile designer, painter, sculptor, multimedia and animation artist and interior designer. And it comes rather easily to him. He doesn’t believe in restricting life to a single beaten path. Man, he says, always likes to categorise and compartmentalise things – this is architecture that is industrial, this is photography and so on. But an architect can be a musician too or whatever he or she wants to be. “I understand people who like to concentrate or specialise in one thing, but for me, it’s terrible – I just cannot do it,” he adds.

As a dyslexic kid, he found himself always drawing in school. “Even then I knew one thing for sure. I didn’t want to work in a bank, and I didn’t want to have a boss. I wanted to do something where people can pay me for making them happy,” he recollects.

He made Chico and Rita, an award winning film in 2010

In 1971, when he left his hometown Valencia to move to Barcelona “to be free and study graphic design”, he created underground comics with like-minded friends while working as a dishwasher and house painter to make extra cash.

“I was very happy. Then we even moved to Ibiza. We were hippies and it was a crazy time. We wanted to change the world,” he fondly reminisces. When he moved back to Barcelona, destiny played her part. “Somebody asked me to make them a bar stool. And i told them I don’t know how! But they insisted, so an architect helped me and that’s how I created Duplex, my first piece of furniture,” he narrates.

So impressive was the use of colour and lines that it was soon picked for production by BD Barcelona design. After that, Javier created another series that got him noticed by Ettore Sottsass, who invited him to Milan to be a part of the disruptive and revolutionary Memphis group.

Javier designed H&M, Barcelona

Spanning a plethora of media, his work is world renowned – from comic books and theme parks in Japan and Italy to countless art exhibitions around the world and Cobi, the official mascot for the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.

During the course of his dynamic career, he has designed furniture, textiles, and objects for brands like Moroso, Nani Marquina, BD Barcelona Design, Alessi, Magis, Artemide and others. He has reimagined corporate identities for companies, illustrated covers for magazines and created sculptures.

In his capacity as an interior designer, he envisioned several projects including the Ikea restaurant in Vitoria (Spain), Gran Hotel Rimini (Italy) and Hotel 150 Wellington in Toronto (Canada).

Ikea restaurant in Vitoria

He even directed the Cobi Troupe (1992), an animated TV show about the beloved Olympic mascot and created Chico & Rita, an award winning and Oscar nominated film about Cuba, music, and love.

One of the greatest multifaceted artists and designers of our times, Javier is grounded. In 1989, he founded Estudio Mariscal in Palo Alto, Spain and has been working with a group of professionals since. “Collaboration and teamwork are necessary, especially in design. I’m a limited person. I have two arms and I need more to create. I need a good team. Like the Beatles – they’re not just Ringo Starr or John Lennon,” he states.

Mariscal’s famous Duplex stool

“What four people make is greater than one. Engineers, marketing experts, communications specialists, technicians and others, they each make important decisions. Behind a single chair are 20 or more wonderful people, not just one stupid man named Javier Mariscal!”

For Javier, the world is a limitless playground. He practises what he preaches and even today, does things that only make him happy. Perhaps, that’s why his creations exude optimism, symbolism and wonder. Perhaps, that’s why he’s fondly called the Peter Pan of Spanish design.


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