This minimalist yet playful festival identity honours the artisanal crafts of the Canary Islands

Lava Circular interdisciplinary arts festival aims to draw attention to the history, culture and natural beauty of the Canary Islands; a collaborative identity has helped this mission come to life.

16 April 2024

With its humid temperatures, diverse landscapes and rich history, the Canary Islands has a long legacy of craft cultures. It’s these artisanal professions that sit at the centre of an identity for the Lava Circular festival, an event, or “interdisciplinary circuit”, that takes place across the island of El Hierro every year. A cheesemaker squeezes cheese, an instrument maker tightens drum laces and a weaver stretches a handloom – these animated elements nod to centuries of history, but add a lighthearted playfulness to the design too.

The identity was a collaborative project, led by Octavio Barrera, director of Lava Circular and the Gran Canaria-based design studio Santanasantana, composed of Iván Santana and Aythami Santana. Together, they were intent on ensuring the visual look didn’t look too commercial or touristy. “Like every year, the intention is to convey the idiosyncrasy of a town, avoiding the use of common cliches related to large-scale commercial events or strategies related to the promotion of mass tourism,” says Aythami. At the same time, as the festival is spread across various locations across the islands, the visual look needed to be adaptable. “Considering its nomadic nature, we devised simple yet effective communication strategies, employing ephemeral and easily transportable systems that seamlessly blend with each landscape and setting,” says Octavio. To help achieve this vision, they brought illustrator Jhon Boy and animator Rafael Grullón along for the ride.


Santanasantana / Jhon Boy / Rafael Grullón: Lava Circular (Copyright © Santanasantana / Jhon Boy / Rafael Grullón, 2023)

Keeping in mind the need for adaptability, from the offset Jhon knew his illustrations needed to be clean and minimalist – but this didn’t mean they couldn’t also have a playful essence. Jhon eschewed colour, instead focusing on a balance between shapes. “Working with a limited colour palette compelled me to focus on body shapes for expression,” he says. “I opted for slightly thicker and larger bodies, as individuals from rural areas are often robust and sturdy. This deliberate disproportionality aimed to capture their physical presence authentically.” Jhon also had the benefit of having personal reference to bring his drawings to life; his grandfather was a cheesemaker in Las Palmas de Anaga, one of Tenerife’s most remote villages, and therefore a great source of inspiration.

To inject that playful element, Jhon experimented with perspectives to create something “whimsically odd yet visually coherent”. The weaver and cheese maker are shown from a slightly elevated angle, drawing attention to their working bodies, while the drum maker is shown from a slightly elevated angle, enhancing the strength and toil needed to tightly wind the drum. Jhon’s choice not to include faces is purposeful too, instead drawing focus to their crafts and adding an element of “intrigue”.


Santanasantana / Jhon Boy / Rafael Grullón: Lava Circular (Copyright © Santanasantana / Jhon Boy / Rafael Grullón, 2023)

Jhon and Rafael worked together closely throughout the whole project – Rafael was aware that whatever Jhon illustrated would need to be well animated, while also living within a “meticulous” layout. “Instead of the editorial and animation aspects being afterthoughts, we were all bouncing ideas off each other as the pencil hit the paper,” says Rafael. Together, they watched numerous videos of artisans at work, aiming to “distil” their movements. Importantly, each movement had to be subtle; Jhon and Rafael wanted the animation to be intriguing while avoiding anything “caricaturesque”, says Rafael.

The identity is rounded off with a Bureau Brut’s Droulers type, a modernised and elegant typewriter font. “This monospaced typeface exudes a remarkable personality, distinguished by its intricate ornamental flourishes,” says Iván. “These embellishments not only lend a touch of sophistication but also forge a compelling visual interplay, seamlessly juxtaposing the illustrations’ language.” The classic type acts as reference to the history that sits at the core of the identity, while its boldness complements and contrasts the fine, unembellished lines of Jhon’s hand.

The project is one that resonates with all the collaborators: a local identity brought to life by a local team. For Jhon especially, who recently moved back to Tenerife, it provided further space for reconnection. “It’s a remarkable feeling when you connect so deeply with a project,” he says. “While I always put my all into every piece of work, this one, in particular, resonated profoundly with me because it is intertwined with my homeland.”

GallerySantanasantana / Jhon Boy / Rafael Grullón: Lava Circular (Copyright © Santanasantana / Jhon Boy / Rafael Grullón, 2023)

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Santanasantana / Jhon Boy / Rafael Grullón: Lava Circular (Copyright © Santanasantana / Jhon Boy / Rafael Grullón, 2023)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English Literature and History, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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