Brazilian studio Monga wants to inspire positivity and respect throughout the graphic design industry
Thriving off a love of anime, the recently formed, Florianópolis-based studio excels in projects influenced by subculture and music.
- Olivia Hingley
- 6 January 2022
Michel Reffati and Mataeus Yuzo of Monga Studio “both Libras with Leo in the astral map” were brought together by fate. Having followed each other on Instagram for a year, it was only at the beginning of the pandemic that they were finally introduced over an online meeting. After hitting it off, a few days later they discovered that they lived a mere street apart from one another. Being drawn together by a shared interest in anime (they refer to the designers they work on projects with as “nakamas” – a Japanese term for a friend that they became enamoured with through the One Piece anime series) it didn’t take long for them to realise that they also shared the same dream, “to create a studio where we would work together with people we admire and create things we believe in and enjoy”.
Despite not beginning their academic careers in design – Michel originally studied advertising and Yuzo engineering – they attest to always having been interested in it through film, music videos, album covers and anime. They describe the moment, therefore, that they realised design could be a viable job as “amazing”. But what most unites Michel and Yuzo is their shared values and ethics. The top of their website is emblazoned with the bold message: “We’re a 24H/D Brazilian design studio that wants to work with good people who are willing to respect our process and understand that valuing people makes the journey enjoyable and the result better.” Explaining the reasoning behind including such a powerful and assured message as their first impression, they told us that “every designer we know has had a disrespectful client and/or boss, someone who thinks only the designer needs to be ethical and polite.” And so, by bringing their true, honest selves and their positivity to every project, they hope to fight against such narratives and inspire change.
Being visually attracted to texture, bold designs and the unexpected, Monga have consistent visual patterns that they apply throughout their work. But, they also pride themselves on viewing every project as an individual entity. Whilst they enjoy brands coming to them because “they want a little bit of our style in their projects,” they also want their clients to be able to recognise their own brand and vision. This is apparent through Mogna’s diverse back catalogue, with every one of their projects being so visually distinctive. Whilst their project Laro – completed for a make-up, hair and fashion design brand – boasts a simplistic colour scheme and design with slick, spiky typography, the project Odara, is a kaleidoscope of colour and energetic shapes.
Completed for the Florianópolis-based creative agency, the Odara project has Brazilian sub-culture at its core. Odara, the agency's name, is a direct reference to tropicalismo, an artistic and musical movement that flourished in the 1960s and produced icons such as Cal Costa, Caetano Veloso and Giblerto Gil. Emerging during Brazil’s military dictatorship, tropcialismo intended to create new, colourful forms of protest, a piece of history that Monga sought to do justice to in their design. The colour scheme was chosen to represent tropicalismo “in a less obvious way,” whilst the large rounded typography and the repetitive, flowing patterns were inspired by the brightly painted sidewalks of large Brazilian cities that staged the movement.
Making a name for themselves with such an impressive focus on themes of music and subculture, they have been approached by clients with similar reference points. Their first client outside of Brazil, Monga was contacted by Pray Coffee Bar based in Seoul. With the coffee shop filled with old records, a Altec A5 loudspeaker and a Macintosh 240 radio valve, they wanted an “old jazz disco” brand design to match the ambience. Monga did so with “an aesthetic that refers to old jazz record covers” and reference to the “main instruments of the musical style, such as the bass and the piano”. And certainly, the project's monochrome palette, vintage typography, and piano key patterns exude smokey jazz cafe vibes.
Being a studio “still at the beginning of its journey”, Monga has lots of brilliant advice for aspiring young designers. Eschewing tips they view as contrived, such as “take this short course and be a great designer” or “watch this video and succeed in life” Monga champion self-belief. Pushing their contemporaries to “find your passion and give it your best” they want creatives not to be ashamed of what interests and inspires them. And, of course, Monga couldn’t finish without some words of inspiration from their favourite anime series: “strive like Naruto trying to be a hokage and like Luffy trying to be the king of pirates.”
Monga Design: Odara Criativa (Copyright © Monga Design, 2020)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.