You could be forgiven for thinking, when reviewing his portfolio of graphic design, illustration, and visual art, that Diego L. Rodríguez, a.k.a. Paranoidme, is a full agency rather than a solo freelancer. The breadth of skills and creativity that this Madrid-based artist has developed come from a never-ending curiosity—as well as the practical recognition that it’s a good business strategy.
“I never want to stop learning,” he says. “It’s a mentality that helps creatives stay awake and never settle.”
His design work is eclectic, deconstructive, vibrant, and driven by a passion for the arts.
“I love to create abstract forms and collages with images, using textures and noise to give the graphics a more analog, dramatic feeling,” he says. “There’s a controlled chaos to it.”
Rodríguez studied cinema and TV production in Madrid, where his final project, producing a short film, required DVD cover proposals and design material.
“I heard about Adobe Photoshop and decided to give it a try; it was a life-changing moment,” he says. “For the first time, I visualized my future.” He began freelancing in 2009 and hasn’t looked back.
Rodríguez loves everything related to mysteries, ancient cultures, and the paranormal—dating back to early explorations of his father’s library, where he found “strange publications about ufology, esoterism, and cosmology.” In addition, he has always found inspiration in art, music, and cinema—and many of his personal and experimental pieces pay tribute to the films, records, songs, or musicians that have influenced him.
“I love when abstraction takes place in different mediums, and that’s why I love David Lynch’s work,” he explains. “I’ve been very influenced by his creative process and life philosophy.”
In addition, Rodríguez likes to search for graphics from the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. “That’s where the aesthetics and trends for the future are hiding,” he says.
He’s also obsessed with Asian arts, culture, and design. Some of the classic designers he admires are Kazumasa Nagai, Koichi Sato, and Ikko Tanaka.
For client work, Rodríguez enjoys large-scale and ambitious projects that offer multiple possibilities for using the graphics in different formats, products, merchandising, and media outlets.
“That gives the project a cohesive aesthetic, and your graphic work shines,” he says. “Take album artwork: Your mission is to craft the aesthetics that will define the mood of the record—the soul and the message the artist wants to put out into the world.”
For personal projects, he’s motivated by how new software opens the door to experimentation and improvisation. “Having the strange feeling of not knowing where to go is really refreshing to me,” he says. “I feel like the alchemist looking to find the right formula.”
One high-profile project that stands out for Rodríguez involved creating one of the main visuals for a PES “e-football” tournament organized by Konami in Madrid. The winner’s prize was to be scanned and filmed so they could have their own personalized player in the official game. The campaign consisted of having a render of Cristiano Ronaldo crossing from the “virtual world” into the “real world.”
“The agency provided the render of Cristiano Ronaldo and a soccer field. I created a polygon mesh to apply over half of the render and then simulated a portal that was broken apart by the player, with explosion effects, dust, and pieces,” he explains. “I used Cinema 4D for creating different renders and spherical wireframes that I could adapt to Ronaldo’s body. Once I had the assets, I created the rest of the graphic with Photoshop.”
Rodríguez particularly enjoys working on cover art and album graphics projects. From a young age, he began creating covers for his own mixes by making collages with magazine cutouts, so this work evolved organically when he began receiving commissions. He has worked for independent artists and labels he admires, including Mark Luva, jjjacob, Bob Moses, and Rome in Silver, as well as for big record companies such as Domino Records, Warner Records, and Republic Records.
Type and font work is another area he enjoys.
“The power of communicating with words is immense. Graphics with a well-displayed message and typography can change people’s perception about the artwork itself,” he says. He likes leaving hidden messages and clues in designs—using tiny, almost unreadable, sizes, for example. For displaying even more cryptic attributes in his designs, he recently released two ornamental fonts named PARAXITE, in which each letter and number is replaced by an abstract symbol.
Selecting a favorite piece is tough for Rodríguez.
“Because I’m always trying to evolve, my latest project is often my favorite,” he says. “That said, certain projects hold a special place in my heart. One of those is the Astro artwork that appears on the start screen of Adobe Illustrator: I felt like I’d really ‘made it’ when that happened. More recently, some of my most elaborate and thoughtful pieces are in my 365 Project.”
A Few Words of Advice
Rodríguez has advice for young people who hope to become artists:
First, take care of your mind (watch out for negative thoughts and habits) and body.
Be a good communicator—and respect your client if you want to be respected. You’ll have good and bad experiences (“humans are difficult”), but try to spread good energy and don’t take anything for granted.
And finally: Never stop learning, observing, and experimenting. Don’t take the easy path; sharpen your skills and explore every last feature and tool in your digital software. Become an alchemist and find your own formulas.