Over the past five years, Graphic Design Festival Scotland (GDFS) has solidified itself as the go-to event to see some of the UK’s best international talent in graphic design. Taking place from 19–25 October this year, the programme is as packed as ever, featuring talks from David Carson, Erik Kessels and GraphicDesign&, as well as workshops, Q&As, music and exhibitions, all in Glasgow’s Lighthouse.
This year, to mark half a decade of GDFS, the festival’s founders – James Gilchrist and Beth Wilson of Warriors Studio – have teamed up with Scottish studio Cause & Effect (Ed Watt and Kerr Vernon) to create an identity celebrating its fifth birthday. Building on previous identities, Ed and Kerr proved to be the perfect collaborators because – as well as sharing a space with Warriors Studio – “the festival identity has tended to become quite noisy and chaotic in the past, so it was a conscious decision to work towards something which separated itself from previous years in terms of tone,” James and Beth explain.
Having set Ed and Kerr a “very concise brief”, the group decided that this year’s identity should reflect the growth and maturation of the festival: “personifying the festival and celebrating its birthday got us all excited,” they recall. With the balloon as their central motif, they began to diversify the objects which could represent their concept of a five-year-old’s birthday party. Illustrations of birthday badges, jelly, party horns, paper hats, streamers and more were incorporated, objects which now form the basis of the identity’s artwork and which are “vehicles for sharing information, like announcing speakers”. “With an audience which is so visually literate and able to decode design and communication languages, we can really play with the tension between practicality and aesthetic,” James adds.
With such a playful concept, the studios settled on a palette of black, silver, grey and white to create a serious and refined aesthetic contrast. The invites, website, posters, screen printed helium balloons and other collateral all feature Swiss Typefaces’ Suisse family as the predominant typeface, supported by Max R. Kaufmann’s Balloon font and Sharp Type’s Ogg to reflect the “strangeness of the relationship between the concept and visual direction”. The result is an identity which doesn’t take itself too seriously, while conversely being thoroughly reasoned and accomplished in its design. “It was important for us that the identity was multi-layered and multi-dimensional. The aesthetic on first impression feels mature and refined while the concept is simple and playful,” Beth explains.
As last year’s website was well received, the team decided to continue with its format, elevating it by assimilating it to their new concept. Although apparently visually diligent on first inspection, the playful elements of the festival’s fifth birthday party are revealed the more you interact with the site. From fireworks when users order tickets (developed by Infinite Eye) to streamer-like underlines on hover, it’s full of hidden “Easter eggs”. Sound effects also feature heavily, introducing another dimension to the experience.
Beyond the expected formats of paper and code, this year’s GDFS identity sees an international game of pass the parcel with ten presents making their way around the world to those involved and to designers they would love to be involved in the future. “It follows and breaks the rules at the same time, which is something we try to do a lot as a studio,” James remarks of the identity’s latest iteration, which creates an interesting friction between ignorance, naivety and total understanding, toeing the line between serious and silly.
To get tickets to this year’s festival, head over the Graphic Design Festival Scotland’s website.#
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.