Edel Rodriguez on childhood, nationalism and a nation on fire

The Cuban-born illustrator was dubbed "America’s Illustrator-In-Chief" by Fast Company.

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Edel Rodriguez attributes his revolutionary spirit to his father who amid the Cuban revolution, covered the back of their home with illegal, foreign advertisement. Now a graphic designer living in the US, his work contests another kind of nationalism, that of US President Donald Trump.

In his talk at Design Indaba Conference 2018, Rodriguez takes the audience through not only what moulded him as a creative, but also what solidified his place as the illustrator of some of the most provocative images in the Trump-era.

His renditions of Trump started as an orange circle and as each scandal progressed, from political gaffes to a nuclear pissing contest with the North Korean dictator, Rodriguez’s work cut through the noise, pointedly illustrating the often ridiculous and callous turns in American politics.

From a magazine covers for Time magazine—and some even more shocking ones for Germany’s Der Spiegel – to a piñata, Rodriguez's idea is immediately recognisable. The simple orange circle, with its mouth agape and a yellow mop of hair, is almost a throwback to the simple aesthetic of Cuban film posters, which often relied on three colours and nothing more.

Rodriguez is also a former art director of Time Magazine where, at the time of his appointment, he was the youngest person to ever work on Time's Canadian and Latin American editions.

Passionately engaged with social art, the much-lauded illustrator brought his electrifying imagery and approach to design to South African shores for Design Indaba 2018. A range of Rodriguez’s work – 75 posters and magazine covers – was put on display at the Artscape Theatre, while delegates in attendance were gifted with their very own poster designed by the artist.

During his talk, Rodriguez staged a silent protest that featured some of his political posters. Addressing the thought behind his habit of giving away his posters for free to protesters, the provocateur simply posits, “We’re in a war. Why would you charge soldiers for bullets?”

Design Indaba 2018 Conference Talks are presented in partnership with Liberty.  

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