More than many a present day graphic designer has confirmed that in a society unaccustomed to good examples of design and suffering a lack of education within the discipline, the first time design’s contribution to daily Spanish life was of note to them was with the Fósforos del Pirineo matchboxes that Pepe Cruz Novillo designed in 1968.

This was a commission for the studio he shared at the time with the graphic artist Fernando Olmos and in which each designed their own series, and some jointly, for many years under the signature Cruz Novillo+Olmos.

Cruz Novillo wanted to break away from the limited repertoire of existing themes that were up until then resolved in a mundane manner. He claimed, in the monograph “Colección Creativos” (Creatives Collection) which the Design Center of Castilla-La Mancha dedicated to him in 2011: “…we came up with more interesting topics and I created a very schematic and powerful illustration style of which my Animal Alphabet and my Circus are the most notable examples”. These matchboxes, sold cheaply at tobacconists, were “miniscule conceptual and formal innovative agents in a time when such actions were very necessary.”

The designer justified the use of geometric compositions as illustration motives for these matchboxes in the desire to find his own language within the world of illustration of the time, where many artists were working with paper architectures. In illustrating these small objects Cruz Novillo achieves the definition of what for him has been true throughout his career: “To design is to create.”