Wexford Literary Festival: A New Visual Identity – Part 1

Wexford Literary Festival is an annual event which takes place in Enniscorthy, Co.Wexford and this year celebrate’s its fourth year. Over three days there’s a packed programme of workshops, talks, special guests and literary prizes; including the prestigious Colm Toibin International Short Story award. The festival is fast becoming one of the highlights of the literary year in Ireland.

Bestselling author and festival chair, Carmel Harrington, contacted me, on behalf of the organising committee, with a view to designing a new visual identity. The first identity had served them well for the first three years but the committee had voted on a name change – to drop the word ‘Focal’ from the title – and a new design was needed to reflect that change.

As a designer, meeting the client’s needs is paramount. And this can only be done through a process of learning and familiarising yourself with the client. So when Carmel approached me to design the new identity we spoke extensively about:
– the goals the committee would like to achieve for the festival,
– how they see it developing over the next 5 years and
– how it’s already perceived by the people who have attended in previous years.

This last point was probably the most informative because she told me this…

This struck a chord with me and an idea started to form in my mind. The festival’s mission statement further fuelled the idea. ‘To create an annual festival that connects, inspires and informs writers and readers’. Which is a really beautiful sentiment.

So the concept of the identity was born…

Now how to express that visually…

Creative intuition kicked in at this point and I knew that the festival didn’t really need a symbol or icon as a logo. Maybe a wordmark of sorts and accompanying colour palette. But nothing was certain at this point. During the research phase, I ask the client to identify keywords that represent the festival. And the committee submitted these words.

Professional – Friendly – Welcoming – Warm – Inspiring – Informative – Inclusive – Accessible– Contemporary – Celebration

I designed a colour palette that relates to those words; a contemporary, warm, welcoming, celebratory range of colours. This was used as a guide to inform design decisions and was applied as I went through the design process.

With any design project, I start the process with sketching using a pen and paper. On a project like this, the number of sketches can run into the hundreds. But I’m just going to show a few to illustrate the process and thinking.

The first sketches are quite rudimentary and they’re really just warm up sketches to get into the flow. Getting the hand to move freely and to roughly express the idea of ‘coming together’ using basic lines and shapes.

A more developed sketch here using overlapping lines to create shapes with shading and texture.

Instead of using lines and shapes I started to use letterforms. Letters are the building blocks of our language and I thought this a more appropriate direction for a Literary Festival.

From here I move from paper to the computer and start to use typefaces to create the illustration. At this stage, it’s a process of playing with form, structure, colour, composition and transparency. The overlapping letterforms create new, interesting shapes and colours adding more visual interest to the experiment.

This is developed further by adding and subtracting letterforms, still playing with composition.

The process continues until I get to something like the illustration below, where I’m happy with the composition, it’s well balanced and visually interesting. At this point, I’m not looking at this as a logo. I see it as a means of creating possibilities. It could generate a new colour scheme or provide a background illustration

This is further developed by adding some depth with pattern and texture. And now this is something I feel I can work with.

Part 2 of the process to follow including; choosing a typeface, a quick tutorial on manipulating type and the application of the identity to print and digital media.

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