"I am a graphic designer who paints,"
affirms Jorge Martell, author of the International
Free the Five campaign poster, "Obama: Give me Five"
BORN in Havana, December 19, 1948,
Jorge Martell owes his training to Havana’s San José
Visual Arts College. In the 1960’s he worked in the
Plaza de la Catedral Experimental Graphics Workshop
and founded the Hermanos Saíz young artists design
group. His daily undertakings are linked to projects
in the Pabellón Cuba exhibition area and his work
appears on book covers and in the form of
illustrations of more than 300 volumes.
working on a mural,
placing his stamp alongside a cartoon
by Gerardo Hernández.
Karoly Emerson (Courtesy ICAP).
Despite a long stay in the United
States, he defends his national identity with pride.
During the 30 years that he lived there, he was a
member of the New York Art Directors Club, the
American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), the
Graphic Arts Guild and the Federation of Cuban
Teachers of Fine Arts. He was responsible for the
artistic direction of eminent publications and left
his mark in large publicity agencies. In 1993, the
Chicago Institute of Design distinguished Martell as
one of the 100 best graphic designers in the
country, and the only Hispanic in its selection.
His work can now be seen around the
world in the form of the poster used by the
International Free the Five Campaign.
The liberation of the Cuban anti-terrorist
patriots Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González,
Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and René González
is raising people’s awareness and mobilizing them.
In this context, Martell commented, "I am working
within the campaign from the grassroots. My first
approach to it was professional, and later,
personal. From the professional point of view, I see
a marked difference between publicity and
propaganda. The second contributes political ideas
and the other sells goods and services. When you are
undertaking propaganda work like the "Obama: Give me
Five" poster, and there is a coincidence of ideas,
the artist puts in this neuralgic point, the extra
What do you feel on seeing your
poster traveling around the world?
I feel completely fulfilled at the
professional level. In the personal context, I
believe that I have fulfilled my duty. "Obama: Give
me Five" is the result of a lot of planning work to
find a way to address that society. It was an
incisive search of more than two years into general
history and U.S. graphics. Greetings are a primary
human contact, and all peoples have developed their
own. Parents say to their little ones "Give me five"
from an early age. It is a way of relating to
persons with a known expression.
Your personal experience in this
kind of campaign?
This type of campaign is mobilizing
the world and the U.S. people in particular. It
talks to them in their language with the ethical
codes that must be managed to reach those receiving
it. In order to penetrate a distant market you have
to know it in depth, cohabit in it. On that basis, I
learnt another idiosyncrasy, in addition to mine. I
noted that all the messages were in Spanish, when
they were directed to an essentially English-speaking
group. I decided to search for something very much
theirs, to create awareness, because they are the
ones who vote, the ones called upon to change events
Are there other plans for this year?
I am doing some small collateral
projects with other messages to accompany the
initial campaign as flyers, pieces to send by email
and other media. I am focusing on similar ideas,
without losing the central thread. I attend
different events and promote my ideas in accordance
with the public to which they are directed. I
anticipate the reaction of President Barack Obama
and his people according to the historical sequence.
I have an idea of the trend of events and draw a
response to that. In a campaign, it doesn’t always
happen that the idea arrives at precisely the right
moment, hence the need to look ahead.