Manuel Estrada started studying architecture but soon shifted to graphic design by creating, with five other members, the association Sidecar, at a moment when design did not exist as a discipline in Spain. In 1989, he founded his own firm, Estrada Design.
Influenced by designers such as Paul Rand (New York, 1914 – 1996) or Daniel Gil (Santander, 1930 – Madrid, 2004), graphic designer Manuel Estrada rejects the concept of a personal “style” in favor of a design that puts itself entirely at the service of solving a given problem. His work is characterized by his extensive use of illustration and montage (of photographs, surfaces, and objects). For him, drawing and collage are not mere formal elements but actual thinking tools. They allow him arrive at the formal and conceptual notions that will, ultimately, constitute the essence of his projects. His process is deeply speculative, using images to generate and interconnect ideas and shapes which keep on metamorphosing until reaching a synthetic resulting form. Regarding Mr. Estrada’s relationship with images, his good friend and fellow designer Frank Memelsdorff states that Manuel “could iconize anything,” that is, transform any concept or process into a coherent, synthetic image (Manuel Estrada,El diseño no es una guinda,2003).
For Estrada, typography is yet another palette, both an essential plastic element and a repertoire with which to continue drawing and composing images. This becomes literal in certain cases, like the Cervantes Prize, in which the letters in “Cervantes” compose the portrait of the writer. (Awarded with the prize from the Art Directors Club of Europe, www.adceurope.org).
Clean, defined lines and silhouettes as well as bright, flat colors are often present in his designs, yet he is also fond of the boldness and clearness provided by black and white and of disarraying compositions by introducing “foreign” elements, such as thick color hand strokes or playful pencil doodles.
Manuel Estrada’s work has been included in recent design surveys, such as Meggs’ History of Graphic Design, by Philip B. Meggs and Alston W. Purvis (5th ed. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2012), and the upcoming (March, 2013) Design Firms Open for Business, by Steven Heller and Lita Talarico.
In addition to his work as a designer, Manuel Estrada is Chairman of Asociación de Diseñadores de Madrid (Association of Designers in Madrid (www.dimad.org); member of the Consejo Superior de Enseñanzas Artísticas de España (Higher Arts Education Council of Spain, www.educacion.gob.es), and Executive Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Latin American Design Biennial (www.bid-dimad.org).
His work has been awarded with prizes such as the Laus Award (Barcelona, www.fad.cat), AEPD award (Madrid, Asociación Española de Profesionales del Diseño (www.aepd.es), and the award from the ADCE (Barcelona, Art Directors Club of Europe, www.adceurope.org).
Since its beginnings in 1989, Estrada Design has been mainly involved in editorial design and visual identity projects for corporations, small companies and institutions, although the studio has also undertaken projects related to product and packaging design, signaling, and environmental graphics.
Most of Manuel Estrada’s work has developed in the editorial field. His studio has designed collections for well-known Spanish publishing houses, among them Alianza (pocket books and philosophy collection, (www.alianzaeditorial.es); Anaya (Spanish and worldwide classics collections; philosophy and aesthetics collection, www.anaya.es); Marcial Pons (history and law collections, www.marcialpons.es); Alfaguara (literature for teenagers collection, www.alfaguara.com); Almed (travel and current affairs in international politics collections, www.almed.net). For El País, a major Spanish newspaper (www.elpais.es), the studio has realized several fiction pocket book collections (adventure, crime, history, Spanish classics, 20th century worldwide classics); as well as a non-fiction collection (La Mirada del Tiempo, devoted to 20th century history essays).
For some time now, Manuel Estrada has been responsible for the design of the Spanish version of the books by Nobel Prize writer José Saramago. Before the writer’s death, they worked together in a special edition of The Elephant’s Journey (Madrid: Santillana, 2010), with illustrations by Manuel Estrada. The studio has also designed or/and acted as art director in periodicals such as Spain Gourmetour (ICEX - Institute of Foreign Trade), Cuadernos del IVAM (Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, Valencia), Ingenio (Professional Association of Civil Engineers, Madrid), to name only a few.
Estrada Design is responsible for the logo and corporate identity of the 15th Latin American Summit of Heads of State and Government; Laureate International Universities (www.laureate.net); Museo del Traje, Madrid (http://museodeltraje.mcu.es); Carmencita (spices), Alicante (www.carmencita.com); Fundación Repsol, Madrid (www.fundacionrepsol.com); Teatros de la Abadía, Madrid (www.teatroabadia.com); Metrovacesa, Madrid (www.metrovacesa.com); Museo del Ejército, Madrid (www.museo.ejercito.es); AFI – Analistas Financieros Internacionales, Madrid (www.afi.es); and Museo de la Evolución Humana, Burgos (www.museoevolucionhumana.com), among many others.