Domenic Lippa on designing the LDF identity for 15 consecutive years, including this one
As the London Design Festival unveils its 20th anniversary look, we find out how you keep a single-palette identity fresh for the decade. Hint: you're never just “knocking something out”.
- Liz Gorny
- 8 July 2022
When asked about leading the look of a festival that has hosted the best in design for decades, Domenic Lippa is the first to point out that it’s not the accomplishment we might claim. Quoting David Ogilvy – “Give me the freedom of a tight brief” – he likens the journey to being the art director of a monthly magazine, whereby you “develop a series of consecutive ideas” working with what you’ve established before. LDF is the paradigm of a taut working structure, which is partially imposed by Domenic, who sticks to a rigid red colour palette every year, “the colour of London”, says the Pentagram partner. As the festival gears up for its 20th anniversary event, taking place, as always, over nine days in September, Domenic talks us through this year’s identity, alongside the highs and lows of a tight brief.
What makes LDF a different kind of design challenge is the audience. “We are designing for ourselves and that can be tricky,” he explains. It also means a greater obligation to keeping things fresh. “If we didn’t, we would be picked up by other designers, the press and my partners,” he outlines. Although, after 15 years of annual iterations, Domenic adds: “I think they’re pretty bored of me presenting it at our partners meetings.”
The design agency attempts to change directions with the work each year – you can see the creative evolution of the identity by looking through the archive of previous editions, available for view on Pentagram’s site. “The first few years we were just finding our voice. But for me, 2011 was a great shift as the solution was so fresh and different.” 2011 was also the year Pentagram introduced a play on fragments and angles in the work, distorting and disrupting the typography. While hard to choose a favourite, another playful highlight for Domenic is 2014. That year, the design moved away from a typographic approach for the first time, adopting a maze graphic to invite users to lose themselves in the festival.
Over a decade in, the work has reached its most confident in recent years; 2022 is no exception. This year the aim was to reflect the sheer mass of disciplines, people, companies and partners represented at the festival – an idea which initially posed a challenge. Domenic recounts: “Ironically, it was the shift to emphasising the 20 years – as suggested by Ben and John [LDF co-founders] – that allowed the idea to develop.” The final work visualises this “sum of parts” with a graphic “murmuration”; numbers come together to replicate images and data, a “sub-element” of the solution, according to Domenic.
Looking back over the 15 year brief, Domenic says one of the main challenges is not to take the work for granted just because it repeats. “But, it is something I thoroughly enjoy,” he says. “It’s too important to try and ‘knock something out’.”
Running from 17-25 September, LDF will take place across London, featuring the likes of an outdoor installation from Sabine Marcelis, a Henge-inspired work by Stanton Williams and Webb Yates, and a project on broken household objects from DesignSingapore Council at the V&A’s festival hub.
GalleryDomenic Lippa: London Design Festival 2022 (Copyright © London Design Festival, 2022)
Domenic Lippa: London Design Festival 2022 (Copyright © London Design Festival, 2022)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, she worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.