Industry Focus: Maria Papaefstathiou
Maria Papaefstathiou aka It’s Just Me is a visual designer and blogger living in Athens, Greece. She focuses her research on poster design, particularly social posters and portraits. Her ongoing project is an extensive series celebrating great personalities of traditional and popular culture in Greece and Jamaica. These include actors, singers, musicians poets etc.
Getting to know Maria…
VP: How did you get your star in the business?
MP: I discovered reggae in 2010 when I met Michael ‘Freestylee’ Thompson, aka Artist Without Borders. He introduced me to Jamaica, its culture, and reggae music. I am a witness to the power of Jamaican music to bring people and cultures together in a spirit of mutual appreciation and respect. There is no other music speaking about the power of One Love, Unity and Peace. This is why Michael and I launched the International Reggae Poster Contest in 2011. It is such a persuasive visual reminder that reggae is a global music. And, especially in these days of crisis, the inspiring messages of Reggae must be shared and embraced by the world. Soon after we established the contest, I began designing posters celebrating reggae music and Jamaican culture.
VP: What was your first notable breakthrough?
MP: I would say the logo I designed for the Montego Bay Airports Limited, commissioned by the CEO at the time, Rafael Echevarne. MBJ Airports Limited was looking for a fresh new logo to depict the island of Jamaica. The first brief was to depict the environment of the island and the aura of its mountains. We represented the mountains as abstract, geometrical forms. The sea was also a dominant image. As the ideas evolved, we wanted the logo to be as vibrant as the island’s people. It was strongly influenced by Jamaica’s national motto, “Out of Many One People. The colours include the black, green and gold of the national flag as well as the red, green and gold made popular by Rastafari. We wanted the logo to sing the rhythm of reggae music. We used pink for the message of universal love and orange for the warmth and happiness of the Jamaican people. My design modernizes the MBJ Airports Limited brand and pays respect to the traditions of the island. The new brand identity makes the MBJ more vibrant, flexible, and modern.
I believe the most notable of my posters is the one I designed of Louise Bennett, affectionately known as Miss Lou. It has been very popular. Another one was of Nelson Mandela, which raised money for the Mandela Children’s Hospital through the Mandela Poster Project. I also did a poster about “Breast Cancer Early Detection” for ”Women’s Rights Are Human Rights: International Posters on Gender-based Inequality.” It has been exhibited in more than 15 countries around the world since 2015 and continues to attract attention.
VP: What projects are you working on now or have just wrapped?
MP: Recently, I finished Miss Pat: My Reggae Music Journey. It’s the autobiography of Mrs. Patricia Chin, co-founder of VP Records. The design of the book has been widely acclaimed. I just wrapped the 2022 VP calendar which features 10 portraits I designed of women in reggae music. Another book I designed recently is The Reggae Nation by Martijn Huissman. All three projects feature not only my illustrations but Michael Thompson’s as well, keeping his memory and legacy alive. I’m now working on Copeland Forbes’ book as told to Clyde McKenzie a Jamaican music and media figure that will be published by Downsound Book Publishing. My work is not limited to Jamaican culture. I participate in international poster events all over the world – from Mexico to South Africa, United States to South Korea, United Arab Emirates to Europe. I also design posters celebrating Greek culture. These are ongoing projects.
VP: What projects are planned or hoped for in the future?
MP: I plan to continue my celebration of Jamaican and Greek culture. My dream is to one day own a poster gallery where I would exhibit posters from all around the world. I would host lectures on the design of posters, books and a whole array of visual art. I believe poster artists have a powerful voice. With no words, or only a couple of them, we can provoke change in society. Posters can be exhibited not only in galleries but in all kinds of public spaces – restaurants, clubs, parks, public transportation and roadways. These are places where lots of people can see art, get influenced and question themselves and their behavior. Public art inspires viewers to think about their society and their community and take action to create a better world and a lasting future for us all.
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