Influenced by indie games and goth music, Menta Picante injects playful eccentricity into their designs at their Mexico-based studio
Injecting a whole host of magic into the design world, Menta Picante, founded in 2013, is the brainchild of husband and wife team Alex Roman and Gaby Salazar.
Self-proclaimed ‘cat people’ Gaby and Alex inject an eccentricity into their work, seen in their unique designs which meander between vibrant color palettes, quirky symbols, and geometric shapes.
Included in the “Colorful & Bright” and “Metropolitan Hip” styles of our Brand Cards, these designs by Gaby and Alex are eclectic in nature, from popping colors to simplistic patterns, so we sat down with them to discover the stories behind the designs we've featured.
Menta Picante studio sits confidently in Guadalajara, México, amongst a landscape of popping colors, tequila-lovers and cacti. Here the pair create magic, aided by distractive influences of new wave, synth and goth music and their love for indie video games.
Chatting to them, we discover their zest for design, their biggest influences, and how the heck the sensational Menta Picante first cut its teeth…
Could you tell us a little bit about your studio? How did it all start? What attracted you to branding?
We always felt attracted to branding since college, but when we developed our first branding project we pushed ourselves further to experiment with forms and colors to give a voice to the brand.
We started our studio as freelancers. My boyfriend (now husband) Alex and I felt like we needed to name it, to make it sound formal and to create something of our own. Then, back in 2012, we kind of hit it off with on and off projects. After a year of working in the mornings in our formal jobs and at night on Menta Picante projects we took the decision of making it full time.
What's the meaning behind Menta Picante? What's that one thing that makes you very Menta Picante?
There’s no actual deep meaning in our name, it was just a game of words that came out in the search of a fun name that didn’t involve anything obvious.
What defines us is that we like to experiment, we are not afraid to express ourselves, we like to be edgy and defiant and, as a Mexican couple, we like to spice things up and sometimes play around with the humour that makes us unique.
What did you both want “to be when you grow up” as a child?
I wanted to be an astronomer. I always felt amazed with the things of the space and the universe. And Alex wanted to be a cartoons illustrator, which is now related to his actual career.
What would you consider to be the guiding light of your work?
Our guiding light is getting to know our clients and projects really well. We like to become friends with our clients so in that trust we can get to know the small details that define and make the brand special. It’s in the small details that we can find the identity and soul of the project.
We’ve used quite a few pieces of your work in this edition of our Brand Cards. Could you tell us the stories behind these pieces of work?
Of course! So, with the Leap project we wanted to develop a ‘playful’ identity, for a developer’s school for teenagers. We created a pattern of signs and symbols that resembled an abstract look, that could be added to computer motherboards and circuits. These then helped clarify the ‘concept of identity’ which gives a fresh approach for creating patterns of simple shapes that remind us of the symbols used in programs. The client is a friend of ours and we were able to create a vision for the young people - that suited us all.
Goba is a real estate company that wanted to engage with its clients in a warmer way since moving house can be stressful. They wanted us to create three segments to identify their customers. The segments we created were: singles, newlyweds and young couples with families. Each segment has its own set of illustrations, icons and color. We enjoyed working on this whole project. We were happy the real estate agency was bold in experimenting with this idea of graphic communication.
Levante was another real estate project which took an ecological and practical approach. We were asked to create a branded system of stickers for their stationery, consisting of folders, writing paper and business cards. This young, eco-aware client wanted to use recycled folders and cardboard for their business cards, and portray a trendy and flashy image from our color schemes.
What is the one thing you couldn't run your studio without?
Some good playlists and our cats!
You are based in Zapopan, Jal. México. How does your location influence your work? Could you send us some photos from your surroundings?
In our city, which is close to Guadalajara, we have a large pool of great talent in art studios. They have a huge influence on us, as does a hub of emerging start-ups in the technical arena. It is a city with many urban artists and communities giving design talks. Engaging with it produces many new ideas for developing our work.
What do you think of the overall brand design work coming out of Mexico? Do you have any favorite pieces or designers that you think do good work? What's trending in your country these days? Can you foresee what is coming up next?
We have seen numerous design studios in the press and digital publications. It’s great that Mexico can be seen as a design country now, where national and international clients can seek out our communication tools and platforms to showcase to the world. We admire many awesome studios such as Anagrama, Estudio Yeye, Monolito, Estudio Menta, Cherry Bomb.
Presently, the trend we see in branding is ‘brutalism.’ Brands use more illustrations, patterns, and a myriad of colors to stand out. We believe the next trend could be the use of 3D models with the continuation of the brutalism trend.
Which project was the most challenging and fulfilling in your career? Why?
One of our favourite and most challenging projects was branding for the lk Mexbox, a Mexican food subscription boxes company. The difficult part was not to make the box look cheesy, but fresh and fun.
We created a set of traditional illustrations with a vibrant color palette, but in a rough style, a little like stamps. All in all, we were very happy with the result and proud to see that this project, a symbol of our country, is now seen around the world. We would like to see more of our culture, food and traditions being showcased this way, using our graphic identities.
What do you find most challenging or frustrating in client projects?
It is always going to be difficult if the client is not immersed in the design field, or open to understanding the meaning of the concept we present to them. Sometimes the client might want you to develop their own ideas, which might not be the best for their business; this is why we find it is so important to be able to have productive meetings with our clients.
What do you find most challenging in the daily life of running your studio? What would you rather have someone else do?
We are busy designing and it is difficult to post all our projects and manage our social media at the same time! That is something we are working on.
What alternate mediums are you most interested in exploring?
We like all available materials. Cardboard is one of our favourites, as it is flexible, cheap and easy to use for different press mediums.
What's your next dream project or client?
We’d really like to work with restaurants and cafés a bit more.
What advice would you give an aspiring brand designer?
Have fun with any project you have and put a lot of thought into it. Take time to develop it with your client and you will see great ideas take shape, with patience.
Award-winning Menta Picante never cease to wow. We’ve decided to feature some of their designs in our Brand Cards because they don’t seek to be pretentious. Instead, they aren’t afraid to stay dirty and irreverent, maintaining a recognizable identity in this way. We hope you enjoyed getting to know this studio as much as we did.