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Fran Méndez, Anima
At work with

Fran Méndez, Anima

Fran Méndez is a designer, art director and lecturer working in London. He recently co-founded Hondo Studio with María Vioque Nguyen, and one of their first projects is Anima magazine.

The first issue of the design magazine appeared as a supplement to Port last year; this month the first standalone edition appeared in shops. The magazine seeks to turn away from short attention spans and instant news and offer a more reflective view of all aspects of design. Fran explains more as he shares his working week.


What are you doing this Monday morning?

I’m working from home today. Since we had our son Milán, who just recently turned one, my morning routine has changed radically. Now it’s all about him and giving his mum, Iranzu, a bit of rest after feeding through the night. I make breakfast and when Iranzu is up, I love preparing our morning coffee with my Fiorenzato espresso machine.

At this time of the year (and when the weather allows!), I enjoy breakfast in our small garden looking at the flowers starting to bloom after winter. On Mondays during term time, I travel an hour down to Greenwich University on my bike. It’s a nice commute through the marshes and by the canal until the Thames. A good way of escaping the noise, hectic city and packed underground!


Describe your work environment.

When I’m not teaching like today, I work from our ground floor flat in Walthamstow. From my desk, I can see my neighbours coming in and out and the hustle and bustle of life by the longest outdoor market in Europe! If I turn around, I can see one of our cats, Luna, curled up on the sofa.


My work environment when I’m teaching is a massive contrast to my living room—open plan lecture theatres, high ceilings and spacious facilities.


Which magazine do you first remember?
The first memory I have of a magazine is the kids El Periodico newspaper supplement called El Tebeo. I liked reading the comic series Mortadelo & Filemon and seeing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!


The magazine that’s influenced me the most (not in terms of design) due to its relevance in a world without the Internet is Wanted magazine edited by graffiti writer El Secret. It was an important publication for graffiti culture in Spain. I remember patiently waiting for it to come out to discover new artworks and artists. Graffiti taught me so much: community; composition; and how to draw letters. Wanted was also the first magazine I started collecting.  


Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
I just received a copy of OASE designed by Karel Martens and his daughter Aagje. I love Martens’ work and have a few of his books and prints. I like his methodology, his attention to detail and the materiality of what he produces. He is a grid system master and I thought OASE would be a good piece to add to my collection.

Describe Anima in three words

Curious, design, knowledge

The first issue of Anima appeared as a supplement to Port last year. What did that trial issue teach you ahead of the second issue?
By the time the second issue came around, we already had a visual identity in place with a defined use of typography and other design elements which gave us a solid foundation. Working on that initial issue was a profound learning experience for me. It allowed me to connect with and truly understand our editorial team—how they think, how they operate, and the detailed process they follow. I was able to establish a strong relationship with our printer, which is crucial.

I also gained a deeper insight into the workflow, from the writing stages to photo shoots and artwork commissions. Throughout it all, I learned to manage the inevitable nerves and keep pushing the project forward.


Designing a magazine about design brings big decisions for a designer. How did you approach this?
Designing a magazine about design is not only a delightful challenge but also a privilege. When Maria Vioque Nguyen and I set out to design Anima, our goal was to create a magazine that combines both classic and innovative design elements seamlessly. It's a continual dialogue between us and the editorial team—the search for a balance where content and design respectfully coexist. Our process involves experimentation with various elements, not just imagery.

For instance, during our research for the article about Olivetti in the first issue, we came across a piece that mentioned Gridnik—a typeface designed by Wim Crouwel and commissioned by Olivetti in 1974. Despite its innovative approach, the typeface was never utilised by the manufacturers. We decided to incorporate Gridnik into our design as a fitting homage. In the second issue, our focus shifted to pictograms, exploring their visual and communicative potential. Each issue is a new opportunity to explore and honour different facets of design history and innovation, making every edition of Anima a unique narrative in the vast dialogue of design.


The magazine covers many aspects of design (graphics, architecture, product design etc). Was it difficult to tie these disciplines together visually?
We developed a flexible editorial identity anchored by a solid grid system that helped us organise information effectively. The use of typography and the grid ensured consistency across the layout, while still offering us the flexibility to experiment in some instances across the various disciplines and content types. Our approach involved deeply engaging with the text—reading and absorbing the content thoroughly. This was crucial as it informed our design decisions when we chose to integrate specific elements directly guided by the content into our design. This process wasn’t just about maintaining visual coherence but also about drawing inspiration and enhancing the stories through thoughtful design choices.


Highlight one story from the current issue that sums up the magazine and its mission.
Anima magazine’s mission is to fill a gap in the design conversation. In a world where information is instantly accessible, design requires a space for more reflective contemplation.

It's challenging to highlight just one feature as the magazine comprises so many compelling stories. If I had to choose one standout piece, it would be Ayla Angelos’ interview with Samuel Ross (above). This conversation not only delves into Ross's innovative approach but also serves as a vivid illustration of the thoughtful dialogue that Anima fosters. Ross is a creative who has explored many disciplines in his practice from graphic design to painting, and fashion. The industrial and artisanal mindset of his studio serves as an inspiring example for both the present and future of design. He merges craft and technology in his work, and I believe this juxtaposition is what defines Anima.


What one piece of advice do you have for someone producing their own magazine?
Gain as much experience working alongside people who are more experienced than you before you embark on creating your own magazine. Once you have that, it’ll be easier to understand and navigate the process.



What are you most looking forward to this coming week?
We’re heading to the North of England to spend a few days in Hull where Iranzu is from. We are preparing an official The Alec Gill Hessle Road photo archive launch there with GF Smith soon which we are really excited about it. This is a book that Iranzu self-published with Alec and I designed. GF Smith is also from Hull and supported the project with its papers so it will be a special celebration!

Editor Deyan Sudjic
Art direction Hondo Studio (Fran Méndez and Maria Vioque Nguyen)


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