The magazine Temas españoles (Spanish Matters) was an instrument for disseminating Francoist thought. The content between its covers enables us to gain an understanding of the ideas that evolved during the dictatorship via a selection of relevant issues and the construction of an idiosyncratic imaginary. The two-tone covers belonging to the first four hundred editions were produced by Verdú, an illustrator who formed part of the Regime and realised a wide array of images, synthesising the specific interpretation of history, geography, art, education, tradition, economy and role of women under the Spanish government in the 1950s. Verdú was a designer whose work – both silent and permanent – was a piece in the state printing machine, connecting other instruments of propaganda from the dictatorship (the news broadcast screened in the NO-DO cinemas) and the opposition (The Estampa Popular) to create popular iconography from the 1950s and 1960s. Verdú influenced design from that period through his insistence, his continuity in designing the cover of the official magazine of his time, and also through professionalism in printing (Ribadeneyra), graphic concision and the iconic efficiency he employed to fulfil his role as a monthly propagandist.

The ensemble of four hundred covers represents a sturdy system of period icons. The design inside is a conventional one: two aligned columns in Times font, both for the body and the general heading, and capitalised sans-serif for the subheadings; yet the lithographic cover realised by Verdú has a personal feel and is highly representative of post-war Spanish design. Verdú was a self-governed illustrator, who, with ration-book technical and graphic mediums was able to create a richly coloured image as powerful as a trumpet call.

The Temas españoles logo is a restrained line of capitals that are so low-key that they merge with the drawing – they represent its upper limit, but are also so dependent on it that the font changes – with or without serif – often go unnoticed. Nevertheless, the title of the cover page does have huge significance: Verdú’s handcrafted words combine upper and lower cases to suggest that he was more of an effective propagandist than a meticulous calligrapher.

By María José Gómez Redondo and Luis Mayo Vega