By John Coleman
If you’ve ever lived in or visited Texas, especially South Texas, then you’ve witnessed how beautifully Mexican culture impacts the region. Hispanic families, friendships, and fiestas add a vibrant dynamic to life near the border - especially on the Gulf Coast (ahem, ‘Third Coast’). And just south of the Corpus Christi city limits lies a pristine South Texas beach that has been set aside for protection, preservation and enjoyment: Padre Island National Seashore.
Padre Island NS showcases stunning white sand beach backed by rolling dunes, runs a massive sea turtle hatch-and-release program, and is home to one of the most overlooked subcultures in America - Texas surfing.
That’s right - Texas surfing.
Anywhere else in the world you can paddle out and catch any wave rolling in, but in Texas you have to work for it. Everything is bigger in Texas (it’s true) except the waves. But that doesn’t stop Third Coast beach rats from paddling out and looking for that diamond in the rough, that one in a dozen killer wave to ride until it dies. Corpus Christians and eager Texan surfers alike have been trekking down to the Third Coast in search of what comes so easily to any Californian or Hawaiian, but it’s the hard earned wave that makes the difficult journey so worth it.
For my Type Hike submission of Padre Island National Seashore, I wanted to tell the story of the Texan surfers while paying homage to the unique cultural blend the Third Coast is known for. Corpus Christi is a vibrant coastal city that is home to a laid-back beach vibe blended with a spicy and lively Hispanic culture. Truly, it is the epitome of “tex mex”. With that, I was curious to explore what “tex mex typography” is (if anything at all) and how it could communicate this unique cultural fusion through type and illustration.
Starting with the letterforms, I searched for a compelling way to immediately share new information to people about Texas (that people actually surf here) but through shapes that were already well understood - surfboards. Pencil in hand, I began designing “Padre Island” through the well-known shape of a surfboard and then took it to a linoleum mat and hand-carved, block-printed, and scanned it into the computer - achieving really authentic texture along the way. I did the same thing for the text of “National Seashore”, but since I didn’t have a shape like a surfboard with which to work, I wanted to let these letters speak a tone of “surf fiesta” to represent the culture down here and keep the theme consistent. Then, I made decisions on color that would keep the fiesta essence alive while also wanting the poster to feel as hot as it can get on the beaches down here, so I kept the colors warm and light. And at the bottom, using the local nickname for Padre, “Isla Blanca”, I penned a closing tagline to sum it all up.
Personally, this poster was really refreshing to make. I loved exploring a new way to approach letterforms through Mexican typography and telling the story of the overlooked and underrated beaches that the Texas coastline provides. It really is beautiful down here - a tropical version of Texas. As a curious learner, it was a blast diving into a new way to create those letterforms through carving linoleum and block printing the designs.
And lastly, a large part of my family is from Mexico and it was really special connecting the dots of my heritage with my career as designer/illustrator. Plus, with tensions so high around the border these days, an optimistic look at the coast America shares with Mexico was needed - and I hope it helps.
“Viva Isla Blanca. Viva Third Coast.”