Córdova Canillas is a Spanish design studio that covers the many realms of the graphic design spectrum with precision and prestige. Over the past four years Diego Córdova and Marti Canillas have been at the forefront of publication design from layout and typography to art direction. With a constant eye on contemporary culture the pair and their team create work that is “both timely and timeless”. As they expand their practice even more, we catch up about how the distinguished studio began and what’s next for print.
How did Córdova Canillas begin?
We started in September 2012 after years of working in several studios acquiring enough experience to finally open our own studio. In the beginning we were mostly working on small projects for friends, vinyl covers for John Talabot’s label Hivern Disks or El Guincho. Then Marc Morro commissioned us to design a book Coses normals doc habituals a biography of the product designer Antoni Arola. After that magazines such as Fucking Young, VEIN, Fuet, Slum and Tunica came knocking on our door.
We were pretty lucky to start working in the editorial design field at a time where we were really obsessed with paper, typefaces, and print publications in general. Now when we look at our bookshelf we have designed around 30 magazines over two years but we keep thinking: what’s next? Even though editorial design is our speciality and we plan to keep doing it, we are currently working on our art direction capabilities, be it photography, video or spaces.
Your output is consistently a printed outcome. Do you feel it is important for work to result in something physical?
Of course, it makes us feel part of a long tradition, similar to architects, shoemakers and product designers. We think about publications as physical works, where we enjoy the process of choosing the paper, the binding and making decisions on the details, such as weight, flexibility and the feeling.
Since we’re firm believers that the most important part of a publication is the content itself, there is no publication without good content. We aim to translate the content we work with into physical narratives.
As art directors you commission a wide range of artists. What is your process in finding those to collaborate with?
Over the years our devoted interested in multimedia art forms has given us perspective of past and current trends. One of the things we’ve come to realise is the importance of not being afraid to ask someone who you admire to work with on a project. It is so rewarding to work with professionals who we once thought were out of reach. An example of this is our publication Morena, which has allowed us to commission photoshoots to photographers we commend. The idea of this publication is to create a collection of monographs exploring the erotic vibes between a photographer and model. On this project we have had the chance to work with acclaimed photographers Henrik Purienne, Olivier Zahn and Richard Kern.
This interest in art direction has resulted in your portfolio being very broad. What inspired the decision to cover so many disciplines?
After many years of working in the editorial design field we grew hungry to do more and become involved in the project as a whole. To be honest, we were quite a bit bored of always being the last step of the process, something that is inevitably a part of being graphic designers. We were a bit envious and sometimes critical of the art directors and photographers involved in big projects. We decided to improve our knowledge in those fields to work on a broader level.
What informs your practice? Are there particular studios or publications that you admire?
When we were straight out of university we admired a lot of designers, both the classic and contemporary. We were obsessed with the form or the aesthetic part of editorial design, the use of typefaces, layouts and papers. Even though we still keep in mind all of those aspects, our vision of editorial projects is quite different, we like to think that we have matured. Now, we aren’t that big fans of editorial design itself, we’ve become more interested by professionals from other fields. For us, it’s refreshing to keep an eye on the work of young talents such as Lotta Volkova, and Demna Gvasalia, what they are doing with Vetements and Balenciaga is really inspiring to us. There are a lot of fashion photographers who inspire us, for example Coco Capitan, a young Spanish photographer based in London with a very particular vision of photography. Additionally we are very keen on architecture. We have always followed the work of Chilean architect Smiljan Radic, his work has been inspiring to us for a while now.
What developments would you like to see with printed publications in the future?
Right now we are in a moment where everything within graphic design is being questioned. There are too many influences, too many resources, too much everything. We’re increasingly becoming outsiders of the graphic design world since we are no longer graphic design consumers, shifting our attention to content. In the future we would like to see new young editors elaborate on printed matter, emphasising on the quality of their content for the consumer. Magazines such as 032c, Garage, Travel Almanac, The Happy Reader and Bad Day are key examples of this. The one thing they all have in common is that their amazing output is due to a top notch editor.
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.