Maria Diamantes’ Visual Dictionary

by Laia Gil,

El diccionario ilustrado de Maria Diamantes |

Clara Mercader was born in Santa Coloma de Farners and came to Barcelona at age 19 to study graphic design. She studied in the school Groc and completed internships in various graphic design studios. She took a master course of Advertisement Strategies in the school Elisava and started working in the advertisement agency Schackleton as a creative and art director. She created the blog Maria Diamantes on the side and uploaded her designs and drawings on it. The blog rose in fame  until the point that Clara has much work with missions that came from the blog. She could not combine both jobs and thus decided to launch herself into the adventure of the Maria Diamantes brand.

El diccionario ilustrado de Maria Diamantes |

She now presents her first book “Barcelona Visual by Maria Diamantes” in which she illustrates icons of Barcelona achieving to capture the identity and the character of the city as converted into the symbol of design. Barcelona Visual has the peculiarity of publishing two very different formats: the book and the case of 30 postcards ready to be sent by post. Barcelona Visual by Maria Diamantes will be presented on Thursday 10th of July at the Antigua Fábrica de Estrella Damm with the presence of the author, the journalist Bibiana Ballbè and the architect Marc Cuixart. 

El diccionario ilustrado de Maria Diamantes |

Where did the name Maria Diamantes come from? 

The name Maria Diamantes actually started as a joke. One night I went to party at Razzmatazz with my friends. A friend always put me on the list in order to enter. Instead of writing my real name, he put me down on that night as Maria Rubies. And the whole night we were joking about the name Rubies (ruby), diamonds, emerald… The next day, I registered myself into Fotolog using the name Maria Diamantes, reminding myself of the night before.

Every time I tell this story, I feel like I should invent a better anecdote, but things something happen where you least expect them to. My brand was born out of joke!

Where did the idea of Barcelona Visual come from?

Last summer I was in New York for three months with my partner Conrad Roset. When we were there, we thought it would be nice to have a project about New York as a city. Since I was learning new words every day, I thought that I could fabricate an illustrated dictionary using the words that I learnt, but many times the concepts were almost impossible to draw. That I how I shook the idea of a dictionary and started drawing elements of the city that I liked.

When I came back from the trip, I considered the project again, but this time on the topic of the city that I know best – Barcelona. I investigated the most interesting icons of Barcelona and created the color range for the project. I tried to create graphic coherence so that all had the same elements, unifying them in this way. With the first ones that I did, I went to the editorial Lunwerg and suggested the Barcelona Visual project to them: a small book of postcards with the most famous icons of Barcelona. Lunwerg loved the project and suggested to me to create a pack with the postcards and the book. When they announced this to me, I could not believe it.

What do we encounter in Barcelona Visual? 

The idea is to present a set of images that define Barcelona, all the while showing different environments, not only the architectural, but also touching upon many identities and characters. Through this process the Barcelona architect Marc Cuixart helped me a lot. With him, we investigate many fields: architecture, sculptures, design, urban interior design, flora, and gastronomy. Every illustration is accompanied by a text by Mariano Veloy in which the characteristics of the icons are explained.

El diccionario ilustrado de Maria Diamantes |

How did the process of selecting the icons go about?

The selection was difficult because I made 79 designs. I went to Marc Cuixart’s house and I deployed them all on the table. We made groups and included the icons within those groups. Okay, we have architecture covered. Gastronomy, covered. Sculptures, complete. We kept on adding and deleting, until we had the 50 selected. The selection was also mainly done by affinity, not as much by importance or by being a more known element.

Many people helped me to chose icons that appear in the book, the editorial, my friends, my parents… Amongst all, we ended up chosing the icons of Barcelona that every one had in mind.

There are 50 icons in the book and 30 icons in the post cards. Which one is your favorite?

I have a few. It is hard to chose just one. The playa, for example, is one of my favorites because it is ultraminimal. I was scared to show it as I might have passed for minimalistic but everybody liked it. The gamba and the sardina, because I like giving value to such insignificant things. The cesta, because I love the design of the cesta lamp of Miguel Milá. I like the gato of Botero because I costed me a lot of work producing it. I did not know how to capture the voluptuousness of the sculpture. In the end, I did it using shades and lights.

El diccionario ilustrado de Maria Diamantes |

Can you explain the process of creation of the illustrations?

I think of which icon to draw and document myself with photographs.Some I would only think about, and imagine how they would be drawn. For instance, the banco-farol of Passeig de Gracia, everybody imagines it from the perspective in which I have drawn it. The hard work was how to synthesize the whole interior of the watermarks and wrought iron that adorn the lamppost. Most of the icons have this background work of synthesizing. I like that everything is very pure, very simple.

Where do you get your inspiration from or what are your references when making your illustrations? 

Charley Harper is an illustrator that I love. He is an american illustrator who draws animals and objects with very geometric forms by hand, without any computer.  It is very good to see the exercise of extracting that he does in order to draw the animals and concepts that he wants you to see and experience.

The process of synthesizing and extracting the purity of a form is very difficult. How do you achieve it? 

They always ask me: what are you? illustrator or designer? Well, I don’t know. I have not been able to define myself yet as I am in the middle. It is like my brain grew to extract synthesis in my first studies of graphic design already. I like to say much with little. It is my objective.

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Slogan to sell your book to a tourist. 

It is a book which aims at making the citizens of Barcelona proud and making the visitors fall in love.

It would be an honor to run into a tourist one day with the book in hands, using it as a guide to get to know the city: Today, I have to eat sardines in Barceloneta, make the vermuth on Sunday morning, visit the Fundacio Miro, walk through the gardens

Which adjectives describe this book? 

Colorful, fresh, and delicate.

Future projects? Maybe a Barcelona Visual 2? 

Barcelona Visual is part of a major project, called Visual Cities. In it, I will illustrate different cities of the world. Always following the scheme of Barcelona Visual: illustration of the icon, the name and a small explanation. I will probably change the color range because London does not have the same color as Sidney, but they will a have similar graphic coherence.

It is possible to create a big collection of books, plates, cushions, posters… With these icons of Barcelona and other cities of the world. I am now creating the web de this great project  and I would like to travel and draw other cities. I think that the next one might be Hong-Kong. That’s what I have in mind.

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