The broad spectrum of graphic design solutions that characterizes the work of Pepe Menéndez represents a singular case within the panorama of our contemporary visualization, which undoubtedly confirms the justness of awarding him the 2017 National Prize for Editorial Design granted by the Cuban Book Institute.
For more than 20 years he has been moving with ease and rigor in the design of literature collections for Casa de las Américas as well as other books and magazines, and the odd special edition of the prestigious Cuban and Latin American institution (where he has been working for more than 20 years at the head of the design department). He accepted with respect and modesty the challenge of continuing the legacy of that great designer who was, and is, Umberto Peña (creator of a booming graphic design of this institution for decades) and to take it now to new levels of imagination and realization according to current times. And he also assimilated the great inheritance of painter and designer Raúl Martínez in diverse editorial modalities with the nascent Cuban Book Institute, around the 1960s and later, being an example of efficacy, appropriations and knowledge in terms of the use of the best graphic instruments of the North American and European tradition.
(…) Pepe Menéndez has perpetuated the identification of Casa de las Américas’s graphic image and, at the same time, has generated other new ones for catalogs of individual and collective Cuban art expositions, books of artists and photographers as well as monographs and magazines based on a well-earned recognition in the universe of publications. With a certain boldness he prefers the experimentation and the search for different languages through the use of vignettes, photography, drawings, book bindings, fretwork, formats, to thus leave aside any trace of routine or complacence, so usual and pernicious when the question is about formalizing editorial profiles that many designers desperately seek for the sake of achieving a personal and institutional identity that distinguishes them in any graphic panorama. He does this by respecting basic rules of design and communication that not because of being old and well-known are less effective: a frank legibility in the principal and secondary texts, a balance between words and signs and nonverbal symbols capable of coordinating a logic of the external and interior visualization of the editorial object, as well as the exclusion of decorative elements prone to intruding noise in the visual perception.
For him all originals represent a singular search for design in keeping with the specific matter, in the content as well as in its formal expression. Each book or magazine has, according to him, a sequence of reading and images, a page by page assessment to be able to transmit the nature of the content, its unity, versatility or plurality be it a critique text, a novel, an essay, a group of poems. He is not concerned about pursuing and achieving a personal “style” since this, far from helping, almost always implies innumerable communication problems since it adds subjectivity, extreme artistry and follies that don’t go well with the necessary graphic efficiency.
(…) Not just in the strict editorial level has he flung his talent and professionalism recognized with this Prize but rather also in the making of posters for diverse institutions (…). This wide range of expressive and aesthetic interests thus adds a greater quota of experience to that work of his that does not cease in its tireless day-to-day toiling….