Review: Star Trek – The Art of Juan Ortiz

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Among the graphic designers in the Nerd Reactor crew, I knew that as soon as I saw this book, I needed to review it. Every time design becomes a topic focus, I’m either within the pool of volunteers or I’ve done my research on the designs in question. For Juan Ortiz, Puerto Rico-born, but grew-up in New York City, his inclination towards art and design began since his youth. “If I saw a blank piece of paper, I had to draw something on it,” Juan admits.

StarTrek1The first seven pages of the artbook feature an interview by Christopher Cooper, where Juan charts his journey from his early years, entering the product design industry (working for such companies as Walt Disney and Warner Bros.), then blazing a trail into designing the episode-based graphics which showcase across the entire book.

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Around 3/4ths of the book contain each of the 80 designs dedicated to every single episode of the two-season Star Trek series. Even the pilot episode, “The Cage”, is in the mix! And while the designs are in order and sub-sectioned by season, the last section of the book features thumbnails of the posters, a description of the episode, and a comment from Juan concerning his approach to the corresponding image.

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The entirety of the book is 15″ long and 11″ wide. And like my review of the Elysium – Art Book, it has its novelty as a coffee table book, but is quite useful for designers. What is unique about this artbook is that it was designed with a 60s poster composition. Whether it is a movie poster, magazine, or advertisement, Juan Ortiz pulls inspiration from all media ideas of the era.

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What Juan captures in these images, finds itself nestled in the same era of pulp movies that Machete Kills, Hobo with a Shotgun, or any other gritty homage of the era that exists today. To me, this exemplifies Juan’s understanding of what ideas appealed at the time, so we get a further examination of those years.

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Not to get too historic, but the early years of the 60s had a massive change in society. Post-war era, assassination of Kennedy, a question to old ideas, and the rise of controversy and color in society. This melting pot of social shift showed in its designs. New ideas and approach were taken to graphic design, but that doesn’t mean this era was full of chaotic design. When you look at the varying elements of this pieces, there is a root method to this madness. Even though some designs incorporate pieces of photos, it still lends itself to the design of the times.

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Personally, I enjoyed the elements and interpretations of the themes for each episode. There are ideas and themes that Juan implements, whether representations through scenes or the use of symbology. While some themes look busy, beyond that wall of what looks like over-design are the roots of how graphic design is founded upon today.

Like any other artbook, I adore the insight of the artist’s mind. So when you go through the comments Juan expresses about each piece, you get the man behind the art. For instance, one piece he says:

I read that this episode was based on two separate scripts. This poster depicts both storylines. It also works as a tribute to the “red shirts” that seem always to get killed.

If you enjoy Star Trek, movie posters but want to save wall space, it’s worth a small investment to pick up “Star Trek – The Art of Juan Ortiz” from Titan Books. And also shirts derived from these designs from We Love Fine.

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