“A revision and not a revolution”: Koln’s Pablo Mariné on updating his father’s visual identity for cultural centre, Matadero

The Madrid-based design studio founded by Pablo Mariné and Daniel Fuente talks us through a highly personal design project.

20 October 2020


Since its creation back in 2014, design studio Koln has tackled an extensive array of projects ranging from editorial to digital, and everything in-between. From Madrid’s World Pride, the album artwork for Delaporte, not to mention magazines and posters galore, Koln is one of those studios that, if you name it, I’m sure they’ve done it. In all this time, however, there hasn’t been a project anywhere near as personal as its visual identity for Matadero, a contemporary creation centre promoted by Madrid City Council in the heart of the city.

The reason why this project is so significant is due to its history. When the centre was first established back in 2006, the designer employed to design the visual identity was a man named Óscar Mariné who, coincidentally, is Koln’s co-founder, Pablo Mariné’s, father. “It was a great opportunity,” says Pablo on the chance to revamp his father’s original work, nearly 15 years later. “Daniel [Koln’s other co-founder] and I have grown as designers learning from Oscar’s work, and Matadero is one of the most important projects he did for the city of Madrid.” In turn, the studio took on the job, recalling how it was “great responsibility.”

Not just any project, the communication system for Matadero required particular attention to detail and care, given its history. It hadn’t been updated for a few years, and the designers wanted to preserve certain elements of the original identity as a hint to its beginnings. The original visual system by Oscar reflected the venue’s industrial space. In fact, when Matadero was first built, it was a slaughterhouse. “Slaughterhouses were industrial facilities located on the border of Madrid,” Daniel tells us. “Due to the need to transport livestock and forage, they had to be close to an adequate land communication system.”

As the capital expanded geographically, mainly due to the increase in population, the area surrounding the slaughterhouse became the suburbs and in turn, many of the slaughterhouses had to find new purposes. Abandoned in the late 80s, in the 90s, the building found a new home in the arts. The old cattle stables were transformed into the headquarters for the National Ballet of Spain and the National Dance Company with a renovation underway come 2005, which is where the new cultural centre came in, and, what is more, Pablo’s father.


Koln: Matadero (Copyright © Koln, 2020)

Pablo and his father had worked together in the past, and this project seemed like a natural progression for the family of designers. Instead of designing a new identity from the ground up, Koln wanted to maintain the essence of the building using original design elements. Daniel explains this, saying “there are certain symbols from this cultural centre that are known by all the Madrileños.” The water tower, for instance, bears the iconic stencil typeface reading Matadero in capitals. Emblems such as this were integral to keep hold of, but to add a contemporary twist, another layer of type was added. In this case, Swiss type foundry Dinamo’s Whyte is used to embellish the original wordmark, selected for its variety of weights to offer variation and playfulness to the established centre.

Creating a system that is both adaptable and modifiable, Matadero’s updated identity echoes its continuous construction and change “where things are always happening.” Pablo describes the update as a “revision and not a revolution,” widening his father’s visual system to cover any and all of Matadero’s needs, now and in the future. As a centre that is formed of several institutions focusing on film, music, theatre and literature, this ability to change was imperative. Working in collaboration with Mario Cano and Rosa Ferré, artistic directors of the centre, there was one other person who’s good opinion was essential to the satisfaction of the job; Óscar Mariné himself of course.

The original designer was shown sneak peeks of the process at every stage. The founding designers admit, “we were very interested in knowing his opinion during the whole process and in a way, it was interesting and fun to work with the designer that had developed the identity before us.” Luckily for all parties involved, Óscar approves the revamp, but then again, “he has always said that he likes what we do,” laughs Daniel and Pablo. “Although perhaps he is not very objective with us…”

GalleryKoln: Matadero (Copyright © Koln, 2020)

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Koln: Matadero (Copyright © Koln, 2020)

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.


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