Café 1820 – Waking Christmas Up

They work all year long waiting for this day.

Santa Claus, the elves, and Rudolph prepare for weeks, having sleepless nights to achieve the impossible only to give joy on Christmas. The least we can do is give them some 1820 Coffee. This is an illustration project (what you would call print ad) for a coffee brand which needed a little fun and cuteness.



Copywriter Sebastián Acuña came up with the idea of what could be iconic eye bags within Christmas characters, which ended up being this project. Illustrator and designer Marv Castillo, made digital paintings of classic characters like Santa Claus, Rudolph and the elves… but sleepless. Castillo used an iPad Pro to paint these characters.


Marv Castillo always trust in pencil and paper. He draw the characters on paper and then jumped into the Procreate app to work on this design and to get the final details. Many eyes served as references, but it was important to keep the characters realistic as possible. The reindeer has almost human-like eyes but the proportions where achieved by using many animal pictures as a reference.

The reaction, according to Castillo was disappointing locally but overwhelming outside of the country. The award-winning illustrator tell us the frustrating story of working on something with so many people behind.

“When I work on something by myself, as a freelance illustrator, everything goes well… when there’s too many cooks on the kitchen it’s where things become messy,” says the illustrator. Castillo adds, “it’s great to work on a illustration with an art director, but when too many people and creative directors get involved, you put your work on a blender and just start adding up ingredients. Someone wants red eyes on the characters, other one wants them to look sick, and it becomes a mess. You know?”

In the ad agency, the illustrations went public and became a hit, but that’s when creatives and many other people start pointing fingers without knowing the brief. The creative direction becomes foggy and then you loose control over the work.

However the illustrations gained huge acceptation outside of the country in places like United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France and Spain.

Castillo adds, it really cool to work on advertising illustration as long the idea feels complete and there is a committed team working on the piece. The lack of clarity when you work on illustration leads to not-so-amazing things. “Always try to protect your work and keep close the people who are more interested about the project, that elevates the project.”

Marv Castillo

Marv Castillo is an illustrator, creative copywriter, screenwriter and designer based in Costa Rica. In his career he has worked with brands which include Marvel, Netflix, World Vision, Amazon, Chevrolet, DC Comics, Sony, among many others. He was part of the Emmy Award Winning team of hitRECord season one, has won over 25 illustration contest and currently works at Garnier BBDO in San José, Costa Rica where he is part of a team that won two Effies. Castillo has been published in magazines and books, and owns Geek Broadside, co-owns MO Project, and is part of other projects.