Artist Interview: Asilda Pin and Patch Designer, Mike Cortes


When he's not working at a design agency in Mexico, Mike Cortes is designing pins and patches for Asilda Store. Before his work for Asilda Store, Mike had mostly worked in apparel design, but now he has an impressive lineup of standout work that balances killer typography, and creative concepts with vibrant colors to create a suite of inspirational pins and patches.

To design pins and patches, Mike has to think beyond pixels. There are manufacturing guidelines and restraints that he has to work with so that he can bring his designs into the real world.

Patches have to be designed using 7 colors or less from a palette of 214 colors. All of the typography has to be at least 0.25 inches tall to stay legible, and it can't be outlined. Pins have a much smaller workspace, so to duplicate them, the designs have to be readable large and small. Like patches, designs can have up to 7 colors, but unlike patches, Mike has to consider the color of the metal plate which serves as the outlines in the design. All of Asilda’s pins are made with a black, gold, or silver metal.

How long have you been designing?

For 7 years. It's definitely been a treat to design for Asilda Store. I am excited that I can realize the ideas into pretty much timeless designs, like we decided from the very beginning. It's not fast fashion what we do. Some designs take months, some are going into production after the first concept sketch. We're not going after fast fashion.

What was the original direction for the style of the pins and patches?

The style had to be simple with thin strokes because of details in the manufacturing process, and I think my style is good for the job. I started to work on simple designs. I was interested in the pins and patches because they had few colors and they had strokes with solid thickness. I really like the result of the designs.

I think the most difficult design is simple and pins and patches have to be simple and powerful. 

What's your process like with Anastasia in designing each patch?

We write by email. Anastasia sends me a brief where she tells me what she wants — design, color, any title, patch size, or pin. I start working with it. I start by making notes and drawings with the fist thing that comes in my mind. I also reference the web and books. I usually do a couple sketches, then draw and color in Illustrator. 

I always send a version in black and gold, black and silver, and a few color versions. Sometimes Anastasia gives me a color guide and for other designs, I simply choose the color depending on the design. For example, for the versions of the Adventure design, I chose fresh, radiant greens, oranges, and yellows.

What was the biggest design challenge when designing pins and patches?

I think the most difficult design is simple and pins and patches have to be simple and powerful. 

Do you wear pins and patches yourself? If so, what are some of your favorites?

I like the Traveler patch, Wander, and Film is Not Dead, but I think my favorite is Shape the Future. My favorite pins are Film is not Dead, Wander, and Escape. I wear them on a jacket and a denim vest.

Anastasia has been working on improvements in production and I can see that there is a pretty nice change from where we started to the level of manufacturing craftsmanship now. Many people don't know, but both pins and patches are still largely a manual process. Patches are a bit easier if you have the right machines, but pin coloring and filling different areas is usually done by hand. 

What is the latest design you did for Asilda Store? 

We just finished Offline is the New Luxury and it came out very nice. We had multiple iterations of the design and the idea was to have a diamond in the sky and combine that with outdoors. Using a constellation as the base, then everything kind of fell in the right place. 

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