Dicken Castro: 100 years of curious designers

On September 23, 1922 the architect and graphic designer Dicken Castro was born in Medellín. Photo: Latin American Design Network.

More than four hundred logos, a major series of posters, building plans, corporate identity designs and an undeniable legacy in graphic design and architecture.

In 2022, it will be 100 years since one of the most important men in the history of graphics was born in Colombia. Dicken Castro was born in Medellín on September 23, 2022; He grew up in a family that gave him everything to develop creatively. His parents, Alfonso Castro and Mercedes Duque, instilled in him a curiosity for forms and a taste for art and literature.

Dicken was the youngest of seven children., so his childhood was a bit lonelier. Somehow he had to be more creative to take on the world. He quickly found a passion for drawing and sculpting, which over the years allowed him to develop in the graphic industry.

As a child, he marveled at how houses and churches were built, always starting from blueprints. He was drawn to the structure of Medellín’s Metropolitan Cathedral, then the city’s largest church, which was built of brick. Appreciating her always seemed like a total experience.

From his mother he found his passion for architecture and from his father he inherited a good taste for aesthetics and books.

In 1932 he moved to Bogotá with his family and finished his schooling in the capital. It was a period of discovery for him and began to confirm his taste for pre-Columbian culture and its graphic expressions. Over time, he developed a particular interest in the popular and pre-Hispanic, which led him to study social anthropology.

The National University of Colombia trained him as an architect, led by professors such as Bruno Violi and Santiago de la Mora. Had he not completed his studies, he would have become an Olympic swimmer because he found great passion in swimming and trained with dedication for a long time. He was a great swimmer.

In the 1940s, Dicken Castro emigrated to the United States to pursue postgraduate studies in architecture at the University of Oregon-Eugene, a place where he would later work as an assistant professor and allow him to settle in North American territory for a time settle down. He lived in cities like Seattle, Washington and New York.

When he returned to Colombia, graphic design was considered a secondary art, but he dared to open the first office dedicated exclusively to it. As an architect, his vision of graphics was a bit more panoramic and he found a period very rich in cultural affairs that allowed him to fully develop his ideas.

“Initially because of its collection of pre-Columbians. As everyone looked at the gold, Dicken looked at the ceramic. But while he enjoyed the pieces, he looked beyond them and appreciated them for the graphics that adorned their surfaces. He also looked at the motifs on the spindles and the imprints of stamps and rollers, which he printed and enlarged in order to recognize them and assess their true value, bringing them to the world of contemporary graphics,” comments one of his sons, Lorenzo Castro .

Dicken Castro, one of the most important men in the history of graphic design in Colombia. Photo taken from: Axxis Magazine.

Between 1959 and 1960 he traveled to Europe to broaden his vision of architecture in relation to graphic design. There he learned to apply his ideas with precision and as soon as he returned to Colombia after seeing David Consuegra start the first graphic design program at Jorge Tadeo Lozano University, he started that at National University while establishing himself as Reference of the graphic in the country.

He designs the logos of the Museo La Tertulia de Cali, the General Archives of the Nation, Colsubsidio and the Music Room of the Luis Ángel Arango Library, to name a few. He also designed the image of the 200 peso coin that circulated for so many years and worked on the design of the first 1,000 peso coin.

Design of Dicken Castro’s 200 pesos coin. (Image taken from: Axxus Magazine).

Several squares in Bogotá bear his stamp, such as Paloquemao or Restrepo, and buildings such as Los Eucaliptos deserved great recognition at the time. He wrote books on graphic design and was one of the main patrons of pre-Columbian architecture and design.

The Colombian School of Medellin gave him an honorary doctorate in graphic design, as did his alma mater, the National University. Driven by his immense curiosity and unwavering amazement, he became a role model for anyone wanting to grow in graphics. Castro opened the doors to many who were professionally trained in graphic design and are now dedicated to it.

“His work is represented by all of this, by the enthusiasm and rigor he put into everything. He was very good at extracting the essence of things.” Her daughter Rosalía Castro has said. “I think everything he did was because he had something to say and he knew how to say it very well.”

Fat Castro. Photo: Carlos Duque.

If we had to think of the most relevant names in Colombian graphics history, Dicken Castro would undoubtedly be among the top 5. One could say that he is almost synonymous with the industry.

He passed away on November 21, 2016 at the age of 94 leaving behind a more than important legacy and five children who will remember him today as the most loving father with a soul of a child anyone could have. “Without realizing it, we’ve learned to look at what nobody sees,” says Lorenzo. “I think Dicken Castro’s legacy was his particular look at the popular and his elevation by making it its true value in the demanding world of contemporary graphics.”

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