Whether it’s designing theater stages, logos, comics, posters or images, the visual artists in Adweek’s list display an innovation and artistry that both inspires and challenges.
At the start of the Netflix documentary Abstract: The Art of Design, Es Devlin, speaking about her art, says: “Over the last two decades of working, one of the things I’ve discovered is often, things are made to fill voids.” Indeed, Devlin, known for her kinetic sculptures, has filled just about every space put in front of her.
Devlin has designed for a number of England’s major theater companies including the Royal Shakespeare Co. as well as for TV, films, operas, fashion shows and rock stars. Her elaborate stage sets have graced the concert tours of Beyoncé, Kanye West, U2, Lady Gaga and Adele. For The Weeknd’s Starboy: Legend of the Fall tour, Devlin created a giant, luminous paper plane-type structure to hover above the stage. In 2012, she designed the Closing Ceremony of the London Olympics and the Opening Ceremony of the Rio Olympics, four years later.
British-born Devlin, who originally studied music at the Royal Academy of Music as a child, has had her works exhibited in a number of solo gallery shows and installations, including the recent Mask at Somerset House in 2018, The Singing Tree (described as an audio-visual Christmas tree) at The Victoria and Albert Museum in 2017 and Room 2022 at Art Basel Miami in 2017.
Hailed by the New Yorker as “the world’s foremost stage designer,” Devlin has received three Olivier Awards for set and costume design. In 2017, she was awarded the London Design Medal and in 2015 was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
Artist, Photographer, Paul Fuentes Design
Juan Pablo Fuentes, known as Paul Fuentes by friends and family, is a graphic designer and content curator. He began his professional career as a junior designer at Universidad Anahuac Mexico City in 2012. Over the next four years he worked as a senior designer at Vida Anahuac Social Magazine, quitting the publication to create his own studio. Fuentes began posting images of food on Instagram just as the whole food porn was trending, earning him instant notice. His Instagram account now has 224,000 followers.
Fuentes’ playful, colorful designs attracted the attention of advertisers and brands alike. He has done work for 20th Century Fox, Dior, Swatch and Cup Noodles. “I want to make people happy,” he says. “With a sushi cat or a juicy hamburger, it’s my goal to break your boring Instagram feed and to get a smile on your face. I like to remind people how fascinating the world is by producing images of food, animals and objects. These images are minimalistic mashups with pastel backgrounds.”
Adds Fuentes: “My main inspiration is happiness and simplicity. Simple is beautiful. I wanted to bring a new way of humor, so what I try to provoke is the feeling of not taking life too serious.”
Letter artist and logo designer Jessica Hische’s work is everywhere you turn and even where you pose. At the Color Factory last year, the wildly popular pop-up experience in San Francisco, she created the Paint the Town mural in a secret alleyway, which no selfie-loving Instagrammer could resist. Moviegoers, meanwhile, know Hische from the film titles she created for Wes Anderson’s Oscar-nominated Moonrise Kingdom. Coming soon: her logo redesign for Squier, a budget-friendly guitar line from Fender.
Speaking of logo redesigns, Hische has become something of a specialist in this arena, executing exquisitely subtle updates for Southern Living, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and Eventbrite, among others. The projects indulge the letter-art geek inside her but also are her stealth way of teaching clients the valuable nuances of her craft. “I really like helping to justify hiring a professional,” she says, citing the proliferation of aggregate websites that offer anonymous design services on the cheap.
This October, Penguin Workshop will publish Hische’s first children’s book, Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave. In an aspirational era when kids are told they can do and be whatever they want, she aims to deliver a message of reassurance that she feels is missing: It’s OK if you don’t succeed at every single thing you do. “Not everyone is capable of winning,” she says, “but that shouldn’t stop you from trying.”
You won’t find much information about innovative cartoonist Olivia Jaimes, and that’s by design.
The pseudonym-cloaked artist and writer made history on April 9, 2018, becoming the first woman to ever draw the 80-year-old syndicated comic strip Nancy. From her inaugural frame, Jaimes’ creative influence brought the precocious protagonist a newly acquired modern commentary. Suddenly, Nancy went from adorable snow-day shenanigans to griping about internet trolling at the hands of “bots” alongside her best buddy, Sluggo. Though met with protests from certain fans who took issue with the obvious changes, readership has nearly doubled since her debut, according to the strip’s distributor, Andrews McMeel Syndication.
But don’t expect the woman behind the comic’s newfound vitality to step into the limelight anytime soon. Jaimes prefers to let her work speak entirely for itself. “It’s been extremely freeing,” says Jaimes. “It keeps things quiet, which is one of the things I value most when I’m trying to make creativity happen.”
In other words, to understand the artist, see the art. “Like me, Nancy is navigating this space where her technology has changed the way she interacts with the world in strange, funny ways,” she explains. “I try to reckon with my own baggage by making jokes about it through her.”
Freelance illustrator Dan Mumford developed his unique style from his love of comic books. Not surprisingly, superheroes, Star Wars and other pop culture items are well represented in his portfolio.
“To me, I like to draw things that have a complexity to them,” Mumford says of his bold, ink-heavy style. It’s that very style that has attracted such clients as media giants Disney, Sony and CBS, as well as bands like The Grateful Dead, Queens of the Stone Age, Pearl Jam and others.
Working on multiple Star Wars projects—including creating Imax exclusive poster art for the releases of both The Force Awakens in 2015 and The Last Jedi in 2017—have helped earn Mumford a reputation for instantly memorable artwork.
But he describes his solo exhibition at Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles last year, Chroma, his most memorable project to date. “I created all the artwork in small bursts amongst a lot of traveling,” he recalls. “I didn’t get much time to really stop and look at the work as I went along. When the show opened and I finally got to see all the work on the walls, it was quite an amazing feeling. I was exhausted, but very happy.”
Photographer and Director
Since age 14, Laurence Philomène has been taking photos, beginning with images of dolls, later evolving into photos of friends, who remain largely the subject of personal and commercial pieces. Many of the Montreal native’s photos deal with identity, queerness and color theory, which is particularly evident in their ongoing series: Non-Binary Portraits.
“The idea behind it is to showcase a different side of the trans community than what was being shown in the mainstream media,” says Philomène, who identifies as non-binary and has photographed friends and others in the community who also identify as non-binary.
The series challenges perceptions of beauty and gender. “A main goal of mine is to make people feel calm and loved and included as much as possible,” Philomène says.