How Rabbithole took Leeds Festival of Ideas in a brave, inflatable design direction

We chew the fat with Rabbithole, the Leeds and Glasgow-based studio that came up with a delightfully monstrous identity for LIFI22.

14 March 2023


Who doesn’t love design that takes you back to the days of soft play centres – whether that fills you with happy thoughts or the dawning horror of the griminess of ball pits from your childhood. Rabbithole, a web and identity studio based between Leeds and Glasgow, somehow tapped directly into these aesthetics – think bouncy castles, gummy sweets and Play-Doh – for the identity for Leeds International Festival of Ideas 2022 (LIFI22), previously Leeds International Festival (LIF). It’s a 3D-focused affair, made in collaboration with Frankfurt-based designer Joseph Töreki – an expert in making the digital seem tactile, hand-crafted and, in this case, squishy.

The LIFI22 identity is a classic example of just how much impact creative freedom can have on a project like this. “Luckily we had complete trust from the client,” Rabbithole creative director Tim Dee and director Mark Martin tell us. “This trust, built up over many years, gives us nigh on free rein.” The result, in their words, has been “been affectionately described as ‘weird, multi-coloured, balloon monsters’”. Alongside the many clients Rabbithole has worked for, from Coldplay to independent clients like Leeds cinema Hyde Park Picture House, the studio also crafted the identity for the Leeds International Festival in 2021.


Rabbithole / Joseph Töreki: Leeds International Festival of Ideas 22 (Copyright © LeedsBID, 2022)

“Back then, the festival was more arts and performance focused,” says Mark and Tim. Rabbithole describes how the 2021 identity was more scientific and academic in style; nodding to the work of designer Neri Oxman, it resembled organic matter grown in a laboratory. By the time LIFI 2022 came around, these visuals felt too high-brow for the festival itself, which was hoping to engage everyone from families to the casual attendee with an updated format. “The festival’s refocusing on new ideas and innovation empowered us to push for braver, more-experimental imagery.”

Rabbithole began by experimenting with motion and 3D with Joseph, inspired by more playful, accessible themes of sweets and “Aardman’s Morph character”. The revamped identity does have some of the same stuff as LIFI 2021, though – namely bright pink type. “Pink was the most recognisable element of the brand,” says the studio. “In a former year, all the landmark buildings in Leeds were lit pink. Travellers to Leeds at the time of the event called it ‘the pink city’.”

A lot of the innovative nature of the identity also came from conversations with Joseph posing heady questions around the nature of the festival, like: “What does the formation of an idea look like?”

The updated look ultimately reflected how the 2022 festival occupied a unique space in the city’s cultural programme with its revamp to welcome new ideas and live debate. “That kind of brand positioning, where you fill a clear gap, is always powerful,” the studio assures.

GalleryRabbithole / Joseph Töreki: Leeds International Festival of Ideas 22 (Copyright © LeedsBID, 2022)

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Rabbithole / Joseph Töreki: Leeds International Festival of Ideas 22 (Copyright © LeedsBID, 2022)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.

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