Pablo Delcan has a memory from his early teenage years: He was visiting his father, who was working in New York City as a filmmaker in the advertising industry, and he asked him what design was. Juan Delcan looked around and began pointing at things (signs, trains, labels on cans), unveiling the brilliant Randian truth that everything is designed.
“For a long time, the definition of design wasn’t something I could put into words,” says Delcan. “It was a more broad understanding of this ubiquitous thing that’s everywhere, and if you stop and look around you, you can find all these beautiful things or details that someone’s put thought into—or no thought into.”
Meanwhile, back home in his native Spain, Delcan grew up in an armory that his mother, a fine artist, had transformed into a studio, complete with a ceramics lab for his grandmother. “I grew up with this normalcy of just having art around me all the time,” he says. “I just felt like it was what people did.”
From the age of 13 on, Delcan played in local rock bands, and, naturally, took to creating the gig posters, merch, and album covers. He attended the Escola d’Art de Menorca (Menorca is an island off the Spanish coast, closest to Barcelona) and eventually made his way to the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where his dad was teaching. While showing his portfolio around the city, he encountered designer Peter Mendelsund, who he admired—and spoke to him about a job at Pantheon. When Mendelsund asked Delcan why he wanted to design books, Delcan candidly replied that books weren’t necessarily his end-all, be-all. “I’m interested in designing beautiful objects,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter whether it’ a book cover or not.”
Though he wasn’t specifically looking for a job in publishing, he jumped at the Pantheon gig so he could work around Mendelsund and observe and absorb his process. For the next year and a half, he hammered away at scores of covers, before the rectangle began to feel like a bit of a cage, and he craved versatility. In 2014 he left to open his eponymous studio, Delcan & Company, where he works alongside two other designers on everything from animated videos, to posters and covers for magazines—and of course, for books.
Here are five covers from over the years that highlight the broad stylings of a designer with the ideal balance of fine and commercial art coursing through his blood.
“I’m interested in designing beautiful objects. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a book cover or not.”