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Articles Design: Frank Arbelo. Design: Frank Arbelo.

From when analog design met CD

In 1993 I left my job at the Department of Audiovisual Media at the University of Havana to try my luck in the world freelancing. He had already been collaborating with Ernesto Azcuy since the previous year and one day he told me that Artex had called him, that he had just launched his Bis Music label and they needed designs for the record collection they were presenting. In those years, the CD was the great novelty and we did all the work for that format. At Artex they were satisfied with the result and called us again the following year. They paid us on time and in dollars, which in the midst of the Special Period was priceless. In '94, Ernesto left Cuba and I continued working with Artex until '96 or '97.

I don't remember if they gave us the content of the discs to listen to before making the designs or they only gave us the title and the artist. Although some colleagues already used computers, their use in the design environment was not yet so widespread, so we did all the illustrations in the traditional way. The materials and techniques we used were acrylic, tempera, oil pastel and collage, or intervening photos, changing style and technique, depending on the image we wanted to achieve for each artist. For example, in the Los Muñequitos de Matanzas album, the typography is made with real sequins, glued one by one; in other cases, it is "drawn" with the blade on adhesive vinyl, taking advantage of the irregular line caused by the cut. They only asked us for the cover illustration and we did not intervene in the layout of the brochure or in the printing process. When we finished, we gave the client the originals and only saw the job once it was printed. This partially affected the final result, since the opportunity to generate a more attractive and coherent product was lost. 

I have square ears and I am unable to get a single note on a musical instrument. Maybe that's why I feel great admiration and respect for musicians and singers. At that time, in my twenties, I listened to a lot of rock, new trova, some Spanish or Argentine singer-songwriters, and traditional Cuban rhythms only attracted me when they appeared in Latin jazz projects or in works like Síntesis. However, this work, and then the nostalgia of the emigrant, made me interested and I began to listen to many popular artists to whom I had not paid attention until then. Several of them continue to this day in my personal musical pantheon and, thanks to their music, I return from time to time to walk down a street in my Havana neighborhood.

Frank Arbelo Frank Arbelo Illustrator and graphic designer of Cuban origin who has lived and worked in Bolivia since 1997. In 2012 he published When I left Havana, which brings together his short comics; Likewise, in 2016 the graphic novel Justicia poética was released, with a script by Pablo De Santis, published in the magazine Fierro, from Argentina. He has participated in competitions and biennials, as well as edited comic magazines. More posts

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  1. Monica says:

    How much nostalgia and memories!!!
    Seeing him work until late at night, on these designs or others, listening to music or muttering dislikes if they didn't go the way he wanted...but in the end, for us, a beautiful result that made us proud of the "artist of the family". That's why a nostalgia that makes you smile and wish you always have the happiness of continuing to create🤗😘

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