Architecture & Design

Kaleidoscope Collective Designs Miami's Indie Scene

We'll admit it --- we're a sucker for a good logo. We regularly find ourselves perusing the aisles of completely impertinent stores, if the sign outside is good enough. (Is it illegal to be vegan in a taxidermist's shop? C'mon, the singing fish outside was hilarious.) 

Miami design super group Kaleidoscope Collective gets this, and they get our unwitting business every time (although their clients are usually a bit more up our alley). This (almost) all-lady graphic design company has created logos and web sites for almost every indie organization in Miami -- from the cover of the Jai-Lai literary magazine, for which they invented a geometric pop art design that dwindles in size with every issue, to the Borscht Film Fest, which features a python eating an alligator. One of their newest works is a logo for Jeronimo's, a bar coming to Miami Beach. It has a B horror movie feel, featuring an oversized octopus wrapping its considerable tentacles around a radio tower. We are so drinking there.

Their team includes principal and creative director Inah Mercedes, a lover of both nature and technology with a graphic design degree from University of Miami; Mercedes's sister, creative director Jennie Perri, a social networking wiz with dual degrees in graphic design and advertising, also from UM; art director Juliana Urrego, who majored in architecture at UM; Randy Suarez, the managing financial director and the only man on the team; and Lisa Trucchio, the interactive design intern, who's majoring in visual journalism and graphic design at UM.

We caught up with Mercedes and Perri to rap about their design aesthetic and how they appeal to Miami's unique sensibilities.

Cultist: How did the group come together?

Inah: Our parents had retail-tourist oriented shops that we grew up in, so we were very much surrounded by signage. My mother's an artist, so we've always been into art, but having grown up with more of a commercial realm around us, we ended up both getting into graphic design and commercial art. We started to design a little together on our own.

The funny thing with Juliana is that right away her work stuck out to us, and when we talked to some of the professors more about her, they told us she was an architecture student just giving design classes a try. But we saw this root of architecture that is important to us with design, in her work. And it's not something we usually see. Lisa was recommended through Juliana. And Randy's my boyfriend of 11 years. He's "in the family." We don't take ourselves too seriously.

What are some of the things you look for when  you're choosing whether or not to work for a company?

Jennie: I think something we also care about is people trying to do the same thing as we are in Miami, because we've worked with people who are bringing great music acts to their venues or artists here in Miami, or people who are putting together literary stuff, and all of that, so we really like to work with people who have the same...

Inah: ... forward thinking...

Jennie: ... as we do.

What would you like to see happen in Miami with regard to art and design?

Inah: When I was coming out of high school, knowing that I wanted to be a graphic designer, I really felt like if I didn't leave Miami and go to New York or San Francisco, I wasn't able to get recognition and get nice work in this city. One of the things that's important to me is to inspire younger people that Miami can be nurturing and that it can grow into a very nurturing place for graphic design and new media. I think it's important for the city to nurture these students that are coming out of DASH, New World [School for the Arts] and any other schools, so that they can stay here and do well.

Can you tell me about the Borscht film festival logo?

​Inah: Borscht is another project that we were really really lucky to get. Working with Lucas [Levya], who is the main push behind that company... for us that was good because he, being a movie maker, has a lot of specific ideas about communicating and storytelling through imagery.

So he approached us with this low-brow, high-brow dichotomy that he wanted to capture, and he had a bunch of different visual ideas, one of which was that python-alligator story. When we finished that mark, for him and us it was just super strong. Sort of reminded us of a yin-yang sign, which I think is very in line with Miami, you know, its opposites.

Jennie: And it was great because the alligator is the native Miami species, the python is the invasive Miami species, and throughout the whole project we kept trying to define these two sides. What was native to Miami? What was invasive to Miami? And I think it was a perfect representation of what's going on in our history because things that used to be native are almost invasive, and things that used to be invasive are turning into native.  

Tell us a little bit about the Jeronimo's logo and branding.

Inah: Jeronimo's is actually one of the coolest projects, because it's a bar, it's on South Beach, it's local, it's not necessarily in the creative set, but it has now this identity that will make it stand out from the rest. They have a big radio tower behind their location on the beach, so they came to us with a concept, very unrefined, and we helped them make it happen. That's a 100 percent hand-drawn illustration.
This poster that we're working on for them is very pulp comic cover-inspired, but it's got the personality that carries through all of it. It's a beautifully illustrated lady, a little sensual, being whisked away by this octopus in that comic book-, pulp-style. And this is not what people typically think of as a Miami client, but they're out there, so we're happy we're here to help them translate these visions.

How would you describe your design aesthetic?

Inah: We have fun and we don't take ourselves too serious. So we don't define ourselves by like, European or Swiss design, although we look to these genres to keep our design intuitive and timeless, but we love so many things, so many styles, that it's hard to define. We act sometimes in a way as a chameleon and adapt to the projects.

Jennie: We both love very clean, beautiful design, but at the same time we are super colorful, fun people, so we're always balancing that out. We can go from the super clean grid-based design to...

Inah: ...maximalist...

Jennie: ...yeah, colorful patterns. It's just what's right for the client and what's right for the project.

Inah: Our mom is Dominican, she's...

Jennie: ...flamboyant...

Inah: ...yeah, our houses were painted with Caribbean colors, so as much as we love that clean design, we still love to go a little crazy.

Jennie: We're doing what we love, and thank God, people love it too.

Visit to check out what's going on with the team.

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Camille Lamb Guzman is a journalist who writes on wellness, travel, and culture. She is also finishing a book of creative nonfiction.