Opinion by Richard Baird
Sydney Design Festival has been running for 20 years, making it one of the oldest design festivals in the world. It provides its visitors with an opportunity to understand design practice in all its forms, to bring to light problem, process and response, and to foster a closer connection with the designers and businesses helping to shape our collective futures. With a change in dates, moving the festival from September to March, placing amongst a busy cultural calendar, the festival worked with Re to develop a graphic identity that would allow it to stand out and announce its new Autumn arrival across a variety of digital and printed communications. These included a responsive website, event programs, flags, posters, flyers, invitations and environmental graphics.
Re intended to not just develop a bold graphic expression that announced the festival’s new date and presence within the city but clarifies its intention. Pushing forward the boundaries of design, bringing cutting-edge ideas to a Sydney audience, and developing rather than simply sustaining design discourse became the critical core of the work. This is visualised through a bold typographic device that pairs a strong graphic image of steps with emotive forward-looking language.
The strength of the work lies in the intelligibility of concept and the creativity and multi-disciplinary nature of its application which covers the graphic, the material, the environmental and digital, an articulation of the many contexts in which design exists.
The steps, the sense of forward motion, of moving upwards and onwards is a universal motif and well-suited to a broad audience. It has a singular and strong graphic character, a current quality in its typeface choice, distinction in its colour palette, and an unwavering continuity in its deployment.
It is eye-catching and with a contextual sensitivity that includes its implementation as environmental graphics across steps and as a pop-up invitation, or in motion across the screen and the implication of depth within posters, delivers enough variety to be interesting and communicative. It provides non-designers with a compelling entry point into visual and material communications.
There are some pleasant little details in the mix. The bleeding of the logo off the edge of the brochure really emphasises a sense of scale, of the uncontainable, but also of the sequential, the leading up to event. Language also has something of a forward momentum. There are the obvious buzzwords, however, these are useful terms that communicate the idea with an immediacy and broad accessibility. The relationship between words and the image they make up is smart, not always well-resolved—the typeface occasionally feels inflexible in its scaling and weighting—but is clear in intention.
There is also a material quality in the literal layering of different sized uncoated papers, in the pop-up invitation and alluded to in the stacking of images. This collage component, developed in collaboration with Sydney based artist Kubi Vasak, offers something of what Re describe as a lo-fi quality, an articulation of grassroots efforts of the festival. Although perhaps not as blunt as the steps motif, brings a bit of communicative and visual breadth to the work. More from RE on BP&O.