No one calls Xavier Gallego “Xavier”; he goes by “Xevi.” Anyone familiar with European nicknames instantly recognizes that he hails from the fiercely autonomous Catalonia region: the small city of Vic some 40 miles north of Barcelona, to be exact.
Xevi connected with creating visual stories from an early age. He was obsessed with monsters and recalls drawing them everywhere: in school books, on the arms of friends and on his bedroom walls. And not the scary, menacing kind; the monsters he drew were soft, optimistic, lovingly ugly and affirmative. He kept evolving his artistic practice, creating a prolific, personal iconography under the artist name @eyesores that quickly became popular in the early days of FaceBook. Via a digital app, another one of his great interests, Xevi created monster stickers that could easily be shared among friends, and his following kept growing. He studied graphic design and advertising, worked for a few local start-ups, and then his monsters took him across the Atlantic to New York City: the little, playful characters had caught the attention of recruiters from the international innovation consultancy R/GA. Xevi joined the R/GA team in 2010, quickly spearheading experience design for iconic brands like Nike and Converse as the agency’s first global creative director, while continuing to draw his monsters that led to campaigns for Spotify, Mahou Beer labels and large, commissioned murals.
In the summer of 2017, Xevi left New York City for San Francisco to lead the new Airbnb product experiences team and reconnected with an old friend, Matt Scullin. The two had met in Barcelona in the early 2000s, bonding over music and art, and for more than 15 years of friendship, they had collaborated on creative direction, positioning, and branding for all of Matt’s early business ventures.
At a Dr. Octagon concert that same summer, Matt had a fateful introduction that led to MycoWorks co-founder Sophia Wang. MycoWorks was seeking a CEO, and Matt, a materials science entrepreneur, was inspired by the mycelium technology MycoWorks was developing. His introduction to MycoWorks, a small team at the time, coincided with the growing volume of material requests the company was receiving from top-tier luxury houses around the world.
After his first meeting with MycoWorks, Matt dropped in on Xevi, just down the street from the MycoWorks workshop, to share his amazement at the remarkable mycelium materials the company had developed.
Xevi remembers an intense spark of curiosity: “What is mycelium? This sounds like the beginning of something really amazing.”
Matt officially joined MycoWorks as CEO, and Xevi collaborated with him to define the go-to-market strategy, putting in hours after his full days at Airbnb.
Of these early days, Xevi recalls, “I shared the vision that Matt had: it is not only what we are doing, it is also how you talk about it. When you are introducing something completely new to the world, strategic storytelling is essential to reach people and to form a personal connection.”
He set out to humanize the company’s technology and its bio-fabricated material, creating a visual language to connect designers and makers to the capabilities of MycoWorks’ Fine Mycelium™ platform and materials. Evoking the beauty, versatility, and sensuality of the material and highlighting its quality and performance, the Reishi™ brand was born. With a logo, website and social media presence, Reishi™ officially launched in early 2020 at New York Fashion Week.
With the launch of Reishi™, Xevi joined MycoWorks full-time as Vice President of Brand and Marketing. MycoWorks had gained a respectable following and recognition during their early years, and with the targeted branding of Reishi, a larger audience of creatives and makers had been reached. Now Xevi turned his focus to the company at large and saw an opportunity to expand the MycoWorks community. He approached the brand identity redesign with one main goal in mind: communicating innovations in science and biotech in a way that would speak to all audiences. “We are pioneers in what we are doing with mycelium and in changing how things are made, and we should be pioneers in how we talk about it. We wanted to bridge the gap between the scientific community and the everyday consumer by developing a language that resonates with everyone,” Xevi says, adding,
“I wanted to build an iconic brand that is inclusive, that sparks curiosity, and that brings everyone along on this journey.”
The vision for MycoWorks’ new branding was to create a go-to hub for high quality mycelium products that both educates and communicates the feeling of awe and possibility that Xevi felt when he first learned about mycelium and MycoWorks back in 2017.
Xevi enlisted Julen Saenz to help execute this vision. Xevi and Julen had previously worked together at R/GA, and Xevi says, “I knew Julen could articulate what I was envisioning. I also knew the challenge, that since THIS has not been done before, I could not point to existing references. It had to look nothing like what was already out there. It had to be approachable and to ignite wonder; it had to be expansive and bold, a language that quickly makes people recognize that we have started something with endless possibilities.”
Julen remembers, “At the beginning of this project, I really didn’t understand anything about what MycoWorks was doing, but Xevi had a clear idea to create something for the people, something that would lead a large audience to discover mycelium and make it mainstream. To first catch someone’s attention, and then have a chance to educate. MycoWorks is key in leading the industry. That made this project really special: we can define the category because we are creating it. The brave vision Xevi had, pushed me to create something that wasn’t obvious for a biotech company.”
Typographer Pedro Arilla assisted Julen with the final touches of the logo, observing, “we needed refinements in the connections of the letter shapes of the logo to make it flow and grow the way we intended. To make all the shapes and negative shapes proprietary and beautiful, to mimic the growth and the interconnectedness of the mycelium.”
Logo established, the team developed the full expression of the brand language. “With MycoWorks, we have a double-pronged approach; we are business to business, and not many in this field invest in brand design that appeals to a wide audience. But we are taking on the education of the world because we are ‘a first’—leaders need to educate to be understood,” Xevi observes.
“We wanted the brand identity to be really alive, really flexible, really colorful. Not minimal, something that can grow and evolve: that can go from simple to complex,” Xevi continues. “A spectrum of tone of voice as well, from impactful to more informational. We defined the four main pillars of our brand ecosystem as nature, mycelium, objects, people.”
The next goal was to give the brand dynamism. “Mycelium is alive, so our brand should be alive,” Xevi observes, “We want this brand to make people stop and learn; this brand has to move and make you feel.” Design studio Gimmewings led by David Galar and Gerard Mallandrich Miret, is doing just that by expanding the MycoWorks brand identity with a motion identity that brings it to life in exciting and dynamic ways. In describing their new partnership with MycoWorks, Gimmewings shares, “Animation is the optimal language for creating simple storytelling that summarizes a large amount of information—we can communicate complex messages succinctly.”
In early 2021, Cheryln Read joined MycoWorks as Art Director. She is evolving the branding, developing toolkits and guidelines that connect the entire MycoWorks team to the brand identity, and presenting the branding in new ways to reach new audiences.
“We have created a language, and like any active language, it will change and morph, like our material does and our product offerings will,” Xevi shares, “What Julen created, Cheryln evolves daily.” Cheryln adds, “What Xevi and Julen created is what got me excited to join MycoWorks. The graphic direction had a life of its own that I wanted to be a part of and grow. It’s like when you are looking for a place to live, and when you find the right spot, your mind starts racing with all the things you can do and how you can make it a home.”
Our goal as a company is to invite people and brands along as we enter the new era of mycelium—everyone can contribute to this movement.
Our work is fueled by diverse talents from the fields of science, manufacturing, marketing, art and beyond. We know it will take a wide range of passions and contributions to change the way things are made.
Looking ahead, Xevi observes, ”If our branding can inspire a kid to study design, biology, chemistry, engineering, art—you name it—and aspire to work at a company like MycoWorks? That is a win. If we make people care and if we can drive curiosity, we have made a difference—and that is our vision.”