AIGA Orlando Mentorship Program 2013:
AIGA Orlando’s SPOT Mentorship is a unique program that pairs select seniors and recently graduated university design students with a professional mentor working in a field of their interest. Over the span of six months, designers worked with mentors to develop a self-promotional project to be unveiled at the SPOT Award Showcase. I had the opportunity to apply and participate in this program under the mentorship of Nick Sambrato, owner of Mama’s Sauce and VP of Business Development at FICTION. This case study deals with the development of the SPOT project and the CASTRO Illustrates brand.
Initial research covered a broad range of subject matter as I met with Nick Sambrato and we worked on narrowing and defining my personal objectives for this project. Having developed a working brand by necessity over the course of my design education, I decided to take this opportunity to undertake a complete reconstruction of my identity and to effectively rebrand myself as an illustrator specializing in illustrated character/elements, type, and publications. With Nick's guidance, we formulated a boilerplate concept map that served as a foundation for my new brand: CASTRO Illustrates.
CASTRO Illustrates was the end result of a long development process that benefited a great deal from the extensive branding and business experience of Nick Sambrato. After exploring many conceptual points of departure, the CASTRO Illustrates brand proved to be the most effective statement. A playful reflection of the notoriety of my own last name, the CASTRO Illustrates combines my love of propaganda visual culture and hints at my own Latin American background. Whether illustrating characters, stories or ideas, CASTRO Illustrates is a strong arch for the range of visual solutions I am able to provide my clients. 
Of course, the main challenge for the SPOT Award Showcase was to produce an engaging project that would expose my illustration work to the current market and reflect the overall messaging of my new brand. In order to achieve this, I set out to illustrate a self-contained world and immerse attendees in the experience of storytelling. The Multiverse is a pop-up, paper mural installation designed to envelop the viewer in a whimsical, character filled universe. In terms of style and content, it is reflective of the recent illustration work I have developed for children’s publications and my interest in the publishing industry.
Printed and mounted onto gatorboard, the mural extends 4’x 8’x 4’, surrounding an
individual standing in front. It consists of three individual ‘levels’ that extend out from the back into tiers with a series of amusing narratives between character sets. The mural is accessible to a wide age-range and encourages individuals to add their own narrative to the illustration or “just add story”.
Construction of the mural was an extensive, two month undertaking of printing, mounting, cutting, sanding and developing pragmatic solutions for transporting a mural from location to location. During this time, I began to unify my existing social media channels under the CASTRO Illustrates brand and build a new website. Sneak previews of construction through these channels aided in developing an audience for the brand prior to the show. With Nick Sambrato’s guidance, I also developed a set of printed materials to enhance the core message of storytelling and serve as ‘give-aways’ at the event.
In order to carry my message across to the SPOT audience, I designed a set of Cinco de Mayo greeting cards (CASTRO Illustrates: Holidays), Mad Lib style pads (CASTRO Illustrates: Stories), and a set of magnets (CASTRO Illustrates: Characters). 
CASTRO Illustrates: Holidays, allowed me to take advantage of the approaching Cinco de Mayo holiday to illustrate a fun set of screen printed greeting cards for a holiday traditionally bereft of such. It also allowed me to demonstrate a different stylistic approach from the mural that was still conceptually connected to the brand message.
CASTRO Illustrates: Stories, directly connected to the idea of allowing people to “just add story”. The Mad Lib style pads contained a set of three character illustrations pulled from the Multiverse mural. People were encouraged to fill out their own version of the story and share with the CASTRO Illustrates brand on various social media channels. 
Once people had filled out their stories, where were the stories going to go? Character magnets were made to encourage individuals to take a piece of the story with them. While the story sheets would ultimately be discarded over time, the magnets would prove to be more resilient messengers of CASTRO Illustrates.
Based on the response of the SPOT Award Showcase attendees and the increased exposure of my illustration portfolio with prospective and existing clients, I consider this project a great success and an invaluable experience.