Monica Brand and Francisco Lopez, Mogollon NY

Presenting a Poised and Poignant Design Portfolio

From our conversations with Philippe Meunier (ADC Board Member and Creative Chief and Senior Partner of Sid Lee), to taking a look back with Sara Rotman Founder (CEO and CCO of MODCo Creative) for our Hindsight Projectthis week, ADC Global Blog is all about promoting people who take the risk to pave a new path in the advertising and design industries. Now, we look forward and discuss how two colleagues maintain a dynamic design/art direction studio that focuses on beauty.

Monica Brand and Francisco Lopez are the young cofounders behind Mogollon NY, Brooklyn art direction/design studio, where the two study aesthetics and art to find inspiration. Founded in 2004, the studio remains a platform for brilliant art direction, branding, graphic design, typography, illustration, motion graphics, set design, web presence, video direction and production, title and credits sequence design and packaging design. We sat down with Monica and Francisco to explain to the ADC Community why we like their work mogollon, “a lot.”

ADC: How did you meet and decide to start Mogollon?

Monica: We originally met in Boston, we were both going to neighbor art schools, MassArt and The School of the Museum of Fine Arts.

Francisco: We knew each other because we were both from Venezuela and majoring in art and film.

In New York, I had a project commissioned by PS1/MoMA. I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the project and was looking for production help and knowledge. I called Monica the exact same day that she had quit her job as a film editor. We talked casually over drinks, and, later that week, we started to shoot video installation documentary for PS1/MoMA.

Monica and I worked for two months, every single day, so we became very good friends. When the piece was finally done, Brett Littman (Executive Director at The Drawing Center, then Deputy Director at MOMA PS1) suggested that we keep working together. One day while walking home, we decided to just create a studio to do what we both love.

Monica: The idea was to create beautiful things no matter the medium. We rented a studio and started working right away.

ADC: How did you start to attract clients?

Monica: That’s the tough part, and that’s when we discovered that if you start a studio like ours, you need clients. Francisco was already freelancing at that time, so he had a few clients to help us get started.

Francisco: We became friends with the people at Tokion Magazine, who gave us some projects for almost no money but it was great for us.

Monica: We were building a body of work.

Francisco: Little by little, we started to find people. We strived to find people who we could work with.

Monica: Not only did we need to promote ourselves and to let people know that we existed, but also we needed to create an interesting portfolio. It’s been a whole experience of understanding what it is to have your own business.

Exactly. We were creating a studio with a service, as well as a certain style concentrating on creating Beautiful things. We call it an art direction studio. For clients, it’s about functionality; for us, it’s how to keep their idea vivid without losing our creative energy. The first six years was more about establishing our style and keeping it alive.

ADC: That’s a robust concept. What is the wildest project that you’ve done through your studio?

Francisco: A Mexican director asked us to be production designers of a feature film. The project entailed that we moved to Mexico for six months, leave our lives here [in NYC], go there, work in the film studio and direct the art direction department. Essentially, we had to create the whole aesthetic for a full-length film. The opportunity was great because our background is film, but we had no actual experience doing production design. However we accepted the offer and began an amazing adventure, probably one of the best that I ever had in my life…

Monica: We built thirty sets in the studio. The size of the film, for Mexico’s standards, was really, really big. It was surreal to be in charge of an entire department for a film and having to create all these places from scratch. We designed all the visuals for the film as well—even the posters and credits.

ADC: What did you learn?

Francisco: We learned how to deal with people. It was a great experience for us to become more secure and confident because we had to fight for our ideas. We grew up quickly and became brazen bosses. It’s hard to learn how to give orders and how to gain respect. We were the youngest guys working on the film.

Monica: It was magical. We had decided that we were going to do the film, and it was the craziest project thus far. If we had known what we were getting into, we would have never agreed.

We lost fear. After the film, we realized our ability and learned that we can and that we have to dare to say, “yes,” even if sometimes we don’t have the required experience—because in the process, you can gain whatever knowledge you need.

ADC: Okay. Let’s talk about the cover of Computer Arts magazine, “The Redesign Issue.”

Francisco: This is second time we designed a cover for them. They have a new logo and new branding for the magazine, and they asked if we wanted to illustrate the cover.

Monica: We use gold or gold leaf a lot in our designs, and Computer Arts was into trying different printing techniques and processes for this special issue, so they asked us to create something keeping with the idea of using gold.

Francisco: We decided to work with a photograph from “A Mon Seul Désir,” a video project that we did last year with photography duo ioulex. The project is about the tapestry with the same name that is in display at Musée de Cluny, Paris.

For the cover, we created an abstract costume to transform the model into a different person. We placed graphics on top of her face and body to render a galactic, futuristic image.

ADC: How do you approach a project together?

Monica: We have collected a bank of shapes or an archive of images that define our work. I’m more into the creative direction for and artistic direction of photography, and Francisco concentrates more on the graphic part.

Francisco: Most of the time, things don’t make sense but beauty makes sense.

ADC: What are you inspirations?

Monica: Most of the shapes are things that we’ve been working with for years. We are very much into Ancient Egyptian Art, so we deconstruct Egyptian iconography and render our own images.

Francisco: Our vision stems from art periods: Art Deco, Japanese Decorative Art, Middle Eastern, Greek Antiquities and Mythology, Surrealism, Pre-historic…

Monica: We love decorative arts. Every time we go to museums, we spend a lot of time photographing or sketching or transfixed by those sections. Tapestry, vases …

Francisco: Even as a child, I was strangely obsessed with Caravaggio. Monica, too! We tried to see every Caravaggio in Italy. There is a cinematographic motif in his work. There’s a lot of cinema influence in our work, for example, the way that we see Science Fiction in our goddesses. It all comes from films and from the film library in our heads.

Monica: Yes! In terms of photography, from the beginning, we’ve been obsessed with old Hollywood imagery like glamour: Hollywood glam, movie stars, and an idea of “the iconic woman.” We drench shoots in dramatic light and a lot of contrast. Of course, that applies to European movies, too. We draw a lot from the Italian actress Monica Vitti from the ‘60s.

ADC: What is your dream project?

Monica: Do you know what I’m going to say? (Directed at Francisco.)

Francisco: Of course, go ahead.

Francisco: We want to finally make a movie!

Monica and Francisco aren’t only designing for clients; they are also looking to exhibit their artwork in New York City. If you interested in learning more about Monica and Francisco’s commissioned work or art, contact them on Mogollon NY. To be attuned to their progress, follow the studio on Twitter or friend them on facebook.

If you’re a member and want to share your story, upcoming event or a new project, contact membernews@adcglobal.orgfor more information!