In April, 2015, at the annual Masticar Food Festival in Buenos Aires, Argentina, attendees were created by colorful signs and billboards filled with Giant hand drawn typography and hand-drawn illustrations detailing many of their local foods.
The bold identity was created by local letterers and designers, Yani Arabena and Guille Vizzari, commonly known as Yani and Guille. The work feels friendly and handmade, like the kind of packaging design you’ll find on a jar of jam at your local farmer’s market.
Masticar, which means chew in Spanish, is hosted annually and is approaching its fifth year of festivities in 2016.
Bold arrangements of hand-drawn food and words permeate the festival grounds and bring it to life.
Yani and Guille have created a beautiful collection that makes Masticar Food Festival’s Fall festivities bright and exciting.
Yani: I’m a graphic designer, typographer and calligrapher too. I studied in Buenos Aires, and I’m at university teaching typography.
Guille: I’m a graphic designer and a typographer as well. We both studied a course in typography together. As Yani said, we met teaching typography at the University of Buenos Aires.
I studied calligraphy too. I do not always consider myself as a calligrapher but I have some skills in that field.
Masticar, the word in English would be “chew” and it refers to eating. Masticar is one of the greatest, the biggest gastronomic fest in Latin America.
It’s a fair but it’s a pretty, pretty big one, the biggest that we have ever seen. There’s something similar in Peru, but the main reason that it differentiates from others is that it’s mainly organized and developed by chefs, by cooks themselves. They organize and take part in the decisions of the fair to make it a whole controlled project of theirs. It’s their project.
A group of renowned Argentinian chefs and businesses put together the food fair to showcase the best gourmet cuisine and the culture once a year.
Guille: Masticar… brings, especially to people, the option or the possibility to taste the greatest plates and dishes of those chefs.
The event takes place over a 4-day weekend in autumn which falls on the month of April in Argentina. Masticar is hosted in the capital, Buenos Aires.
Guille: There is a market where you can buy honey from the South, or tomatoes from the North, things like that.
You know the TV show, Master Chef? It affected positively in Masticar because the three chefs that were judging the TV show were part of this fair. So, it was like an explosion between the two, the TV show and the gastronomic fair.
Master Chef came here last year and Masticar it’s the 4th Year that they have done so far. But it was something that made it more popular. But yes, people are really interested in the fair here in Buenos Aires. Producers come from all around the country.
In 2015, the Masticar Festival had targeted over 150,000 people to attend. I asked Yani and Guille how they got involved in creating the identity for such a huge event.
Guille: It all started with the book. We’d been contacted by the former designers of Masticar, which were friends of ours – are currently friends of ours. They contacted us to be part of development of the book of the fair. A book that would gather all the recipes and interviews and information about the fair and information about the chefs.
Yani: That was the first approach to the festival…
Guille: In 2013.
Yani was contacted as a calligrapher by the designer of the book.
Yani: We worked with a friend of ours, Alejandra Román, the designer of the book. That was the beginning with Masticar but not the fair.
Guille: It was the second edition of the fair and the book was being developed by some publisher here in Buenos Aires, a very well-known publisher. And Yani’s the calligrapher and a designer and me as an illustrator were part of that book development and it was great.
The next year, 2014, the designers who were taking charge of Masticar had to turn them down because they were planning some trips and they recommended us to be organizers to the chefs.
Yani: Because they want to include lettering, illustrations, typography…
Guille: They were pretty aware of the tendencies all over the world but they didn’t know how to ask for it. So they just wanted designers to develop that thing that they got in mind, that they didn’t know how to seek for them.
So magically, we came here in the middle of their path and we began developing this latter fair identity.
The logo for the food festival had already been created and the organizers were happy with it. What they wanted was something that could be built around that logo. So, here’s what they did.
Guille: What we did was develop all the identity that went around the logo type which is what gives the personality to the fair. One thing that they told us when the last fair ended was that they realized that the logo type was not something so important as they thought because there were some posters that didn’t have the logo type at all and the people recognized them and knew what they were talking about, knew about the fair already so it was great.
They got the idea first of involving illustrated works but they didn’t know how to materialize them into the fair identity. So after the first meeting…
Yani: We decided to make some stuff, drawing, incorporate some illustrations but not using images like photography. We want to really create everything because…
Guille: Yes. During the previous editions, we used images, images like meats or fruits…
Yani: Well, Narda Lepes is one of the chefs in the organization called ACELGA…
Guille: In charge of the visual department of the fair.
As in Narda Lepes, the popular Argentinian chef and television personality who is part of the festival’s decision-making association, ACELGA.
Yani: She showed us one time an image of a market, not a fair, a market with blackboards…
Guille: …hand painted.
That was the first image that came to us asking for this kind of stuff but we didn’t know where it was leading. We wanted to apply illustration because we love to do that. We wanted to apply some calligraphy if we had the chance. And we wanted illustrated lettering because that’s what we love in our day-to-day basis.
Yani: We said always that this project was a big opportunity to mix everything because they wanted designers but we know about typography and they told us we want everything drawn but that’s impossible because the fair is very huge. All the information that we designed, we had to provide that to another person, sponsors, and people that are part of the organization. That was the reason we decided to make it typography.
Guille: At first it was all illustrated, all the phrases, all the illustrations were handmade.
Yani: In the project, we used only type…
Guille: …that was made by us. At first we developed some posters showcasing this former spirit of the identity during the process. For the date and the legal information of the fair we applied the former typography that they had been using in the previous editions of the fair. And when they saw that, they said, “We want these little texts also illustrated by you.” That was the moment in the meeting that we looked at each other and said, “These people are crazy. They want us to illustrate all the text.”
Yani: It was a short time.
Guille: It was a really short time. The process took no more than three months from beginning to the end. There was a moment when we realized that we had to develop typography because there was no more possibility for us to illustrate everything, all the texts. There was a lot of information.
All of the festival signage and letters are made with these beautiful, thick hand-drawn typeface so I asked them how long it took to create them.
Guille: The development of the typeface was like a week, the first one, the regular weight one. The first was developed in 2014. The last edition we developed the fat one, the bold. So both typefaces compliment but they were developed in two years.
One week, the first one. Another one week, the second one. With a year in the middle, of other projects and life. But the overall project took us like three months in the first edition and two months in the second one.
Yani: We have to say that the typography is for display.
Guille: It has lots of mistakes. It was hand-drawn. At first it was like a sketch and okay, let’s move on. This has to work. And we had to work as good as we could in that little time that we had.
With only three months and many constraints, they had to develop a typeface of full identity. The illustrations to accompany the typeface as well as graphic design works such as layout, poster design, program schedules and signage. So I asked them if they came across any other challenges along the way and if anyone helped them in the development stages.
Guille: We worked, the two of us only. But we would love to ask for help…
Yani: Yes. In this edition, for a time we worked with…
Guille: …with the former designers of the fair – because we were having a trip in the middle of the process.
Yani: They helped us in the beginning of the project.
Guille: While we were not here in Buenos Aires, we developed the pieces, some design for social media and that stuff. That saved us.
Yani: For the mural, we had an assistant called Agustin. He’s a great letterer and calligrapher, too.
Guille: He’s a student. He’s a graphic designer but he’s working now in the studio and he really helped us with the mural. After that, all pieces were developed by the two of us and only the two of us. That’s something we have to say because we survived that. [laughs]
Yani: We really enjoyed the project. We didn’t take another project in that period because it’s very difficult to do.
Guille: They really came to trust our work, our mission. So the last few months were like, “Yeah. I love this.” “Let’s do this.” “Do whatever you like.” “I love this illustration.” “Or maybe you can illustrate this dish instead of that one?” But there was no heavy feedback from the client so it was pretty smooth in that way.
In the beginning stages, the event organizers had a rough idea of what they wanted the identity to be. And gave it to Yani and Guille. They took the feedback and developed their own ideas. Yani and Guille presented what they had made, the organizers absolutely loved it and let them just move forward. The end result is a bold and strong identity full of illustration and a beautiful typeface.
Guille: They were pretty happy with what we made and they said that it was the thing that they were looking for but didn’t know how to explain that. So, that made us pretty happy.
Two months before, when they contacted us to begin this, we already had a trip planned to give a workshop and a talk in a conference and workshop in Lima (Peru).
Guille: We couldn’t postpone that and we wanted to do it as well so we began with the process of one month with them. We had the trip and after we got back, half a month to finish the project.
Yani and Guille were offered to work on this project two months prior to a trip they had planned. The trip was going to be in another country and they knew that they would be busy providing hand-lettering, calligraphy workshops and giving speaking engagements for one whole month. They decided not to turn down the opportunity and worked on the Masticar project while they were away.
Guille: We, of course, developed all the illustrations and all of the lettering material before going to this trip and the typography as well. The bold typeface, we developed before going to this trip so they had all the material they needed in order to design something that the client requested.
It’s really funny when you see the typeface that we made for the fair in action, in TV, in an interview about the fair, or in a magazine, printed in a magazine for the title of some interview concerning the fair.
Yani: They know that is the Masticar typeface.
Guille: Yes. You cannot distribute or sell it.
Or yet. I’m hoping they release that typeface. It’s something that I really love.
I asked about the colors that are used in the festival, if it was something that was developed previously or there was a decision they made for 2015.
Yani: This edition was in autumn.
Guille: All the communication on this last edition was placed all around eating the products of the current season so the colors represented the most known products of that season which was autumn.
Yani: In Argentina.
Guille: So the colors represented those products in a way, differentiating this last edition from the previous one which used mainly a blackboard, and red and white typeface with some different colors…
Here they are talking about their experience printing things for the event.
Guille: We have a direct contact with all the people involved in the printing process for each product.
Yani: For this project, we were two designers. We had some people who would helped us but there wasn’t a graphic producer…There was a lot of people involved in the production of the fair. It was a big team.
Guille: There was a styling company, there was a producer company, and there was a graphics producer person in charge of all the billboards, so we were in constant contact with them…
Yani: For some videos in the classes…
Here are the main tools that they used both physically and digitally:
Guille: Computers, the scanner and our hands and pencils, rulers…
Yani: …markers, brushes…
Guille: …not so much.
Yani: For the mural.
Guille: Well, for the mural, yes, brushes, paint. But our main tools for this project are pencil, rulers. For software, in order to develop the fonts, we bought a software called FontLab.
Yani: I think we used brush pens in. We like what is used for English calligraphy…
Guille: I might say the pencil…Mechanical pencils. I like to acquire some new pieces, yes.
I asked if the identity for this event opened more opportunities for them…
Guille: Here, one of the most known fairs, so…
Yani: Because it’s like a huge window display. We could show about lettering, about typography, about illustration, about graphic design.
Guille: If you go to fair, if you have the chance to go to the fair, it’s like a showcase of our work. All the billboards are pretty big, like seven meters high and the mural, hand painted, and the newspaper is designed by us and all the lettering and the typography itself. So, yes, people really love that project and we love that project, too. It’s kind of our baby in some way because we had the chance to pour all our passions there and people received it very well. So, yes, there are some clients that mention the project to us and they loved it and went to the fair as well.
Yani: And the people around the world is interested in Latin American design because I think that the colors, the forms are like, I don’t know how to say…
Guille: It’s particular…It doesn’t follow any design current, I must say, maybe.
Yani: And all the comments of the project, everybody said that the colorful, the forms, they didn’t say Latin American design but in other words, they are saying that it’s beautiful.
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Interview by Cesar Contreras