Graphic Design Festival Scotland have confirmed their 2019 programme and identity, the festival takes place between the 22nd-26th of November in Glasgow. GDFS 2019 kicks off with their lead conference, TopForm in Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall. You can hear from some of the most inspiring names in the industry including: Stefan Sagmeister, Angus Hyland of Pentagram, Swiss Typefaces, Eike Konig of HORT, Kelly Anna and media titans VICE. The Fountain caught up with found, James Gilchrist who discussed the identity and branding of the festival in great depth.

TF: What’s the identity for Graphic Design Festival Scotland 2019 about?

‘Pleasure or happiness is the only thing that truly has intrinsic value’

The identity focuses on the meaning of life, the concept of value and the established mechanisms used in corporate advertising to influence our thoughts, emotions and behaviours. 

TF: How did you arrive at the concept?

This year, the festival is shedding mass and growing into something bigger through the removal of things which are unnecessary or impractical. It’s becoming a lean machine, which led us to discussions around utilitarianism.

While exploring the true meaning of utilitarian we discovered that it means useful or practical rather than attractive, while “maximum utility” means producing the most happiness for the greatest number of people, which seems like a contradiction. This contradiction created the foundations for the 2019 identity.

This apparent contradiction sparked a debate around whether utilitarianism is a paradox and a lot of debate around there is an inextricable link between beauty and function. After touching on Dieter Rams principles of good design we asked what is the most pure function of the identity for Graphic Design Festival Scotland?

We want people to feel good when they see the identity and then we want them to book tickets to attend the events. Feel good. Buy tickets. Pure and simple. Human and profound.

Would a blind embossed strip of utilitarian information detailing the who, what, where and why provide the ultimate functionality? Would that be beautiful and create pleasure and happiness? Would that encourage people to attend? Maybe, but for us as individuals a strip of utilitarian information is not exciting, it doesn’t give us pleasure and it doesn’t make us feel good. It wouldn’t make us want to go to an event, and if we feel like that we’re sure lots of others would feel the same.

This led us to explore what makes the most people happy and investigate the mechanics of corporate advertising aimed at pleasing “everyone”, yet through a shallow and diluted hyper-reality it connects with no-one.

TF: What’s the thinking behind the concept for Graphic Design Festival Scotland’s 2019 identity?

We’re surrounded by brands and retailers overwhelming us with perfectly captured filtered product 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 including a calming turquoise ocean and the general consensus is ‘buy our product, service or experience and you will be happier’. They combine perfect photography with catchy emotive slogans such as, ‘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 of pounds going to Disneyland and you may as well spend the extra on branded foods. These brands spend millions of pounds a year on this exact strategy and it seems to work. When written plainly, the ideas and strategies are ludicrous and shallow, however, it’s difficult for us to not be subconsciously influenced and controlled by strategic marketing and branding.

Through the identity for Graphic Design Festival Scotland 2019 we expose the simple, manipulative mechanics of corporate advertising and utilise them unashamedly and critically by revealing the objectives of the campaign in the tagline: ‘Feel good, buy tickets’ and using imagery which is overly positive and so mass-appealing it becomes meaningless.

If you want to make the most people happy, how do you do that? What experiences, memories and visuals do we all hold close to our hearts? How can you create happiness with the least possible means? Happy dogs? Sunshine? Beach holidays? An ice cold drink? Romantic sunsets?

We combine these mass-appealing but shallow images with heartwarming slogans which aim to encourage people to attend GDFS and importantly buy tickets.

Do these emotive tropes really instil wellbeing and positivity? Will festival participants be happier than usual? Will we sell more tickets than usual? Will we sell out quicker than usual? Will tickets sell quicker than usual?

The identity for Graphic Design Festival Scotland 2019 lays bare the bulls**t mechanics of corporate advertising and explores the role of emotion in selling products and services. Do you love sunsets, sandy beaches, cold ice cream, cute puppies, smiling faces and romantic sunsets? Great, so do we. Feel good. Buy tickets.

TF: What is the inspiration behind the visual language; typography, photography?

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 their product or service. To connect this directly with the design world, the typography and treatment is specifically inspired by Apple, who despite being heralded as ground-breaking and pioneering use exactly the same tropes as all of the others.

The photography used is specifically selected for it’s hyper-real aesthetic, like the imagery used 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 the greed and desire inside of us for something ‘better’.

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.”. Using an unexpected sincerity hopefully encourages more questioning around the authenticity and motives behind advertising and help with recognition of the falsity and manipulation.

Using a light classic serif for the typography offers the messaging sincerity and connects it closely to the era of advertising we’re referencing.

The black and white colour palette aims to complement the saturated photography, offer flexibility when combining with imagery and provide timelessness.

The website uses interactions, which reveal moments of positivity and feel-good factors behind blocks of information and text. The programme layout has been designed in list format echoing the utilitarian origins of the concept.

For the tone of voice and messaging throughout the social media campaigns, we’ll be using familiar structures and mechanisms to provoke emotional responses; 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 to criticise the impossibility of the slogans we’re exposed to: “There are some things you just can’t miss… Graphic Design Festival Scotland.” or “Life is better when there’s something to look forward to… Graphic Design Festival Scotland.” “If there’s one thing you do this year… book your tickets to Graphic Design Festival Scotland.”

For more information on Graphic Design Festival Scotland as well as tickets click here.