Case Study: Virginia Highlands Festival Logo
Once upon a time, in a year known as 2015, I got a message from my friend Becky who just happens to be the Executive Director of the Virginia Highlands Festival. They were looking for another designer to bring on for the 2016 festival, and I jumped at the idea. The project included a new website build with a pretty extensive calendar of events, marketing materials, banners and signs for the festival, and through a turn of events eventually the role of 2016 Creative Director and the design of the 60+ page festival guide.
The very first thing that needed to be taken care of was a festival logo though. While the Highlands Festival committee has it's own evergreen branding and logo, each year of the festival is branded as it's own entity. It's a move that actually makes a lot of sense, allowing each year of the festival to stand on it's own and drawing interest with a yearly theme that the festival is based around.
The theme for 2016 was Paint the Town. Which at first glance seems like a really simple concept to base a logomark and graphic identity around, right? It's okay, I was once young and naive too.
Fortunately though, after the initial artist's block I was able to come up with more concepts than I planned. My process began with doing some research on other types of events and their logos. I pulled an inspiration file and made notes of what drew me to each piece.
After that I broke from my usual process and went straight to Illustrator to play with different elements, instead of beginning with a sketchpad and pencil. Most projects start on paper, but occasionally I need to put 15 different font variations in front of me to break the creative ice.
This logo needed to include several text elements: The festival name, year, city and state, and the theme all had to be represented textually. It also needed to have a strong visual presence that would work in a lot of different applications, such as the cover of the festival magazine with a busy background, email signatures, and signage.
There was only so far I could take the paint aspect of "Paint the Town" without things getting a little cheesy, so I started playing around with the town concept. At first my plan was to create a small generic city skyline, but after doing some research I learned that Abingdon Virginia, where the festival is held, actually has a ton of great recognizable architecture. Thus began the Googling.
My goal was to find enough buildings with distinct roof structures to create a silhouette that represented Abingdon. Since I don't actually live there I had to depend on the camera angles of strangers, who apparently don't normally take straight on shots of historic homes, but I was finally able to piece together enough to have 4 recognizable structures for my skyline.
After collaborating with Becky and the festival's other rockstar designer Amber we decided the building on the far right translated into a bit of a creepy factory look when made into a silhouette, but we were able to find a pavilion with a beautiful outline to take it's place.
The two fonts I chose were Blizzard and Joella. Blizzard being the tall, thin, sans-serif was able to hold it's own with a few different styles. Due to all the different backgrounds the logo needed to be visible on the weights of the secondary text were made thicker by using strokes. Joella is softer and more artsy, perfect for the Paint the Town theme.
The logo went through several rounds of tweaking. The Paint the Town font was made softer and more round by going from all caps to a first letter capital. The buildings were made slightly wider and more spread out to work with the full badge, and the paint stroke was tweaked and widened slightly to become part of the skyline.
The logo ended up working so well that it was turned into a window cling given out to sponsors, and also a giant foam cutout that was used as a photo prop at the festival itself.