It would seem a little on the nose to suggest drinking Corona today, especially since there are countless better Mexican beverages that do not share an unfortunately similar name to this recent global pandemic. However, this week has two fun holidays that can help lift spirits and remind you that life goes on, even in isolation. So Feliz Cinco de Mayo and May the Fourth Be With You All!
¿Por que no los dos?
On 5th May 1862, the Mexican army defeated the French Empire and was first observed as a annual holiday the following year in California. Cinco de Mayo is celebration of all things Mexican, particularly Mexican-American culture, and generates beer sales in the US on par with the Super Bowl.
Estevan Oriol and Mister Cartoon brought the gritty reality of Los Angeles streets, hip hop, and Chicano culture to the world. Cartoon began as a graffiti artist making his name in the streets of LA. He then moved to tattoos and eventually graphic design – leaving his art on the skin, cars, and apparel of people around the globe. Oriol is a photographer who documented Mister Cartoon’s journey into stardom, as the two began a cultural movement that resonates far outside Los Angeles.
The story of these two entrepreneurs has been documented in a Netflix production called LA Originals and it demonstrates how two Chicanos could build their own empire that helped form the identity of Mexican Americans, Los Angelenos, and hip-hop heads for generations to come. Their style defined street culture during the ‘90s and 2000s, as Cartoon became the tattoo artist to the stars and Oriol started directing video clips for some of hip hop’s biggest names.
The collaboration between these two artists is very encouraging since they not only remained true to their cultural identity, but worked brilliantly together to produce some of the most iconic imagery of LA, Chicano, and hip hop culture.
True to form, Mister Cartoon still produces his designs by hand. Whether for an epic mural, shoe design, tattoo, album cover, or corporate logo design – it begins with ink and paper. His calligraphy style has become synonymous with tattooing and street culture, which has then been used for marketing various brands such as Microsoft, Nike, Vans, Rockstar Games, and Harley-Davidson.
In a Galaxy Far, Far Away…
Any excuse to talk about Star Wars and I’ll snatch it up in less than 12 parsecs, so let’s get the history stuff out of the way.
According to Alan Arnold’s books Once Upon a Galaxy: A Journal of the Making of The Empire Strikes Back, “May the 4th be with you” first emerged in the mainstream pop culture on 4th May 1979, when Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of the UK. To celebrate, her party took out a newspaper ad declaring, “May The Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations.”
Since then Star Wars nerds around the world have used this date as a celebration of all things related to the iconic film franchise. Strange to think stuffy British conservative politicians created a global phenomenon all from a simple pun – especially since there was only one movie released at that time.
We’ve look at Star Wars a couple times before – from its iconic title font to the films’ incredible use of mise en scène. The reason artists, writers, and designers all get excited discussing Star Wars is because it has and remains a pioneer in technique – whether that be filmmaking, visual design, or storytelling. Star Wars flew through barriers so other creatives could ride its tailwinds.
Jedi-Taught Design Techniques
While 3D animation has become a lot cheaper to produce since the days of the OG Star Wars trilogy, a key design element that helped give the illusion of space between figure and ground is the use of depth. By placing figures (such as humans or droids) in the foreground and setting them against expansive landscapes, viewers get a sense of depth and perspective, while the use of shadow and lighting helps figures appear 3D-rendered.
The Star Wars universe is one filled with contrast – and I’m not just talking about the overarching contrast between good and evil. The use of juxtaposition in Star Wars is commonly used to create a sense of wonder and fear, especially since the antagonists of the film are often more visually dominating and often contrasted with smaller heroes.
The juxtaposition of a tiny X-wing fighter against the massive Death Star, helps convey a sense of hopelessness and awe as outgunned rebels take on the wrath of an intergalactic empire. This is a deliberate technique as it draws viewers attention to the smaller figures and help illustrate the overwhelming odds our heroes face.
Star Wars often uses symmetry to create a sense of uniformity and order. Think back to the final scene from A New Hope when our heroes are awarded medals for taking down the Death Star. This iconic scene shows Luke, Han, and Chewie surrounded by rows of identical rebel soldiers, walking straight down the middle aisle to receive their awards. It’s a fitting way to express that order has been restored in the galaxy and balance has returned to the light side of the force.
May the Fourth be with you all during this difficult time of isolation and crisis. Please take the time to appreciate the countless techniques Star Wars utilised to build this iconic film franchise, the subtle use of staging that helps express the story without using a word.
Star Wars offers designers and writers a wealth of inspiration, so this Cinco de Mayo, why not whip up a burrito and some margaritas while you try to celebrate these two holidays. There is so much artistic talent across these two cultures and now, more than ever, is a perfect time to appreciate their impact on the design world.
While we’re reminiscing about holidays and better times, why not check out our blog about World Book Day or World Health Day. Or download our holiday-themed game built entirely in PowerPoint. Stay safe, sane, and sanitised out there.