Meet the artist who designed campaign branding fit for graffiti and surfboards for Julián Castro

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro dropped out of the presidential race Thursday, but the creator behind his Chicano-inspired branding thinks it will live on.

Castro first announced his campaign with a wordmark logo set in the typeface Mallory, but the campaign eventually added other less traditional logos and branding from artist Cruz Ortiz.

“We wanted something that was going to be veering off from the typical use,” Ortiz told Yello in an interview. “We wanted to make it edgy.”

Ortiz described the hand-drawn, hand-cut lettering and vibe as “very Latino urban,” and “something you might see on a surfboard,” including on shirts and buttons that read “Adios Trump.”

One line of shirts included a callout to graffiti culture with the letters “C/S” for “con safos,” a phrase which means “with safety” used by Chicano taggers and graffiti artists as a sort of street copyright mark.

“It would mean like, I’m making a statement, that’s it,” Ortiz said. “It’s like a branded stamp. It’s saying to everyone, don’t mess with this.”

Castro himself “kept asking” for “con safos” merch, Ortiz said, while wife Erica Castro came up with the idea for a design that stacked the candidate’s first and last name to align and spell out “US.” The A and accent mark were made into a liberty torch.

Ortiz said they had region-specific design planned for the primaries.

“We were ignoring states and we went based on cultural regions,” he said, including Appalachia, the Midwest, and the Southwest.

Ortiz’ wife, Olivia Ortiz, said they also planned for a “whole other logo that was going to be artsy” for after the Iowa caucus.

Cruz Ortiz said he felt the weight of history while designing for Castro.

“We were so stressed out,” he said. “I remember wanting to throw up.”

They saved “every single cut paper, everything,” and the University of Texas at San Antonio has already archived the work.

“The stuff we’re doing now, people are going to look back at this,” Ortiz said.