We sat with one of the most celebrated Spanish illustrators of the 20th century, a National Design Award winner who can make you feel like you are still a child
Javier Mariscal (Valencia, 1950) has literally a thousand and one things on his mind. Buried under dozens of projects at his nearly 70 years of age, the illustrator and designer can move from topic to topic with incredible skill; from speaking of his love affair with the city of Barcelona to his fascination towards digital technology.
Internationally renowned for being the 'father' of Cobi, official mascot of the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Mariscal's unique style goes further than his most famous creation: from hotel to sets design, comics and magazine covers to stools.
We visited Mariscal in his Barcelona studio - a designer's haven filled with state-of-the-art illustrations, dozens of dolls and other objects created by him and his team - to talk about his iconic career and find out what is inside one of the most inquisitive minds of the international scene.
From comics to design
Although Mariscal was born in Valencia, his restless spirit led him quickly to Barcelona, a city that, due to its proximity to France, felt like a breath of fresh air in such a dark time in the history of Spain.
Alongside other popular names from the time, he began to draw comics in Barcelona's underground scene and sold them for little cash. His colorful and innocent style, full of rounded lines, would become a distinctive trait throughout his career, which soon began to expand into design.
One of his most appreciated pieces during the 80s was his logo 'BAR/CEL/ONA', a promotional poster for the city and an attempt to transform the traditional souvenir. It managed to convey, in its extraordinary simplicity, the entire visual identity of Barcelona in a few letters. His main creation for the city, however, was yet to come.
Cobi, a mascot for all
Despite his aversion to being identified as a representative of something official, Mariscal decided to submit a bid to design the mascot for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. To his amazement, his entry ended up succeeding and Cobi became one of the most popular characters of the early 90s in Spain, as well as marking a turning point in Olympic mascot design.
With this character, Mariscal wished to escape from the traditional athletic shape of impossible superheroes and sought a friendly and approachable design with which anyone could identify. A fat Cobi, 'pot-bellied', as he likes to describe it, whose likeability and simplicity conquered every imaginable format.
In more recent times, Mariscal continued to create and explored new fields, as demonstrated by his collaboration with filmmaker Fernando Trueba in the award-winning animated feature 'Chico and Rita', nominated for an Oscar and winner of a Goya Award, and by his numerous commissions for brands such as Camper or Codorníu.
Creativity is looking at things in a different way
Finally, staying creative for Mariscal is synonymous with staying alive. Against all impositions and constraints, his style is one of freedom, color, and vitality, one that finds magic in the mundane. Maybe that’s why, in the mind of this contemporary design legend, a cigarette lighter could not simply be a cigarette lighter, but a Second World War aircraft that can take us on thousands of adventures.