David Consuegra’s Graphic Foundation. Álvaro Medina

The book World Graphic Design (2004) is a compendium aimed at disseminating the work of notable graphic designers from Asia, Africa, the Arab countries and Latin America. As it would be expected David Consuegra was included in this anthology of international scope. The author of the book, Geoffry Caban, did not resist the temptation to point out that some of the works selected had been inspired by vernacular sources, which in turn gave them a distinct character. At first glance it seemed an unnecessary observation, but the anthologist justified it by citing a concept by David Consuegra which in essence, referred to a tendency of his personal practice.

 

In Caban’s study some designers did not recognized the existence of a distinct regional quality in their work. But Consuegra took a different stance as he believed that it was «possible to identify some elements in native design which are characteristic of Latin American graphic expression».

 

This study aims to explore which are the distinctive regional elements in David Consuegra’s work. It is unquestionable that his production has an international scope. But why are his designs global? Because in their strictness they managed to be contemporary. Global design does not rely on specific stylistic results, but in knowing how to work within the generational currents of the time in which one lives.

 

Consuegra was contemporary with Herb Lubalin, Gregory Fosella, Jörg Hamburguer, Lance Wyman, Tom Soja, Roman Cieslewicz, and Félix Beltrán, among others, but simultaneously and very subtlety he looked favourably to the past. This is why he managed to connect his personal vision with the features that he studied in the gold ritual objects made by indigenous cultures. One of the most concise and informative studies by David Consuegra in this field was Ornamentación calada en la orfebrería precolombina (Muisca y Tolima) (Open work ornamentation in pre-columbian goldsmithingMuisca and Tolima cultures). This book contains a series of geometric designs, based on the ornamental details of gold objects made by two of the native cultures that lived in the central region of Colombia at the time of the Spanish conquest.

 

Consuegra reinterpreted native designs paying particular attention to the original geometric intention of the pre-columbian artist. He managed to recreate the legacy of the past with contemporary criteria. It is possible to say that Consuegra saw that pre-columbian design still had relevance and this allowed to him to understand that the accuracy and austerity of the anonymous artists of the past coincided with that of the modern world. This paper aims to document how this theoretical assumption translated into his practical work.

 

Some examples included here are the logotype for the National School of Architecture in Mexico (1963), based on the initials in Spanish E N A. Consuegra joined the letters giving them a specific content. The linking of the three capital letters evoked the rhythm of the borders (grecas) of the Palace of columns constructed in Mitla, not far from the city of Oaxaca. This logo visually conveyed the architectural heritage of a country such as Mexico, rich in ancient cultures and of great achievements in the modern era.

 

A similar study can be seen in the mark of the Museum of Modern Art in Bogotá, also created in 1963, and the first important commission that Consuegra received in Colombia. The design would have been purely formal and lacking in profound conceptual implications if the repetition of the triangle did not evoke the triangular and rhomboidal signs that are common in the stone drawings (petroglifos) of the Chibcha culture –better known as Muisca– which were drawn in the surroundings of the high plateau where Bogotá is located. Consuegra demonstrated that he knew how to identify and define a context of communication. The reference was concrete and direct, and this is why Consuegra considered that the overall result was «both pre-columbian and modern».

 

The other examples documented here show how Consuegra’s studies centred in abstracting other traits of pre-columbian design such as symmetry, the visual relation between positive and negative, and the juxtaposition of flat surfaces.

 

It is evident that Consuegra’s approach was never biased. If on the one hand he knew where to find the sources that entirely satisfied his sensibility, on the other he was careful enough not to loose sight of the purpose that each task required.