Graphic Design Festival Scotland 18
Generating international media attention with an award-winning brand identity, campaign and website which helped welcome a record number of visitors to a leading design event
Laying bare the mechanics of corporate advertising for Graphic Design Festival Scotland
Warriors have been taking care of Graphic Design Festival Scotland’s creative direction, branding and design since founding in 2014.
The work includes the festival's communication strategy, refreshed brand identity, website, social media, campaigns and the design of any books published.
The festival has now welcomed attendance and participation from nearly a quarter of a million creatives.
The 2019 branding and campaigns led to the strongest engagement on social media in six years, a sold-out programme with more than three thousand attending and lots of divided opinions.
The identity caused a stir, divided opinions, surprise; a little confusion and gathered strong support from everyone who scratched beneath the surface.
For the branding and campaign, we exposed the simple, manipulative mechanics of corporate advertising and utilised them critically and unashamedly.
Do you love sunsets, sandy beaches, cold ice cream, cute puppies, smiling faces and romantic sunsets? Don't we all. Feel good. Buy tickets.
The festival's strategic aims in 2019 were to grow into something stronger and leaner by removing unnecessary or inefficient elements of the programme. This led to discussions around utilitarianism.
We discovered that utilitarian means useful or practical as opposed to attractive, while maximum utility means producing the most happiness for the greatest number of people. This apparent contradiction around whether utilitarianism is a paradox based on the link between beauty and function sparked debate. After reviewing Dieter Rams' Principles of Good Design we asked:
What is the most pure function of the identity for Graphic Design Festival Scotland?
We agreed, we would like people to feel good when they see the identity and then book tickets to attend the events. Feel good. Buy tickets. Pure and simple.
We're surrounded by brands and retailers overwhelming us with perfectly captured photography. The food looks tastier than we could ever cook, the fresh-faced models are sun-kissed and stress-free, the clothing is perfectly tailored, the destinations include a calming turquoise ocean and the general consensus is 'buy our product, service or experience and you will be happier'.
Perfect photography is combined with catchy emotive slogans, ‘Quality worth every penny', 'Because you're worth it', 'Impossible is nothing', 'The happiest place on earth' and so on. These marketing strategies offer the idea that your life will be instantly better by having an Aston Martin, you deserve to spend extra to use L’Oreal shampoo, you can achieve your wildest dreams by wearing Adidas trainers, your children won't be happy if you don't spend thousands going to Disneyland and you may as well spend extra on branded foods.
Brands spend millions every year on these exact strategies and they seem to work. When written plainly, the ideas and messages are ludicrous and shallow, however, it's difficult for us not to be subconsciously influenced and controlled by strategic marketing and branding.
The visual language is inspired by 1950s-80s corporate advertising which combines emotive, copy-driven slogans with photography highlighting how much better your life would be with buying a specific product or service. To connect directly with the design world the typography and treatment is specifically inspired by Apple, who despite being heralded as pioneering, use exactly the same tropes as other large corporations.
The photography used is selected for it’s hyper-real aesthetic, like the imagery used in advertising. Clean, shiny and perfect. The imagery portrays a life and level of perfection which is unattainable and disconnected from reality. It hijacks our insecurities and feeds our latent greed and desire for something better.
The website interactions reveal "hits" of positivity behind blocks of information and feel-good imagery peppers the site at various points with the listed programme format echoing the utilitarian origins of the concept.
Unlike the corporate advertising we’re familiar with, we reveal the objectives and our intentions with the identity in the tagline: “Feel good. Buy tickets.”. Unexpected sincerity hopefully encourages more questioning around the authenticity and motives behind advertising and helps highlight the falsity and manipulation.
For the tone of voice and messaging throughout the social media campaigns we use familiar language and mechanisms to provoke emotional responses of hope, desire, fear and inadequacy. Some of the messaging feels genuine and sincere: “Making it in the design industry is hard. Make it easier for yourself. Attend GDFS.” while others are more tongue in cheek, criticising the impossibility of the slogans we’re regularly exposed to: “Improve your wellbeing. Buy tickets.” and “If there’s one thing you do this year… book your tickets to Graphic Design Festival Scotland.”