Barnbrook in London has produced a modular identity (and a rather lovely looking catalogue) for the 17th Biennale of Sydney which is currently running in the Australian city until August 1. The contemporary art festival, which is subtitled Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age, will showcase (in seven venues) over 440 works of art by no fewer than 166 artists and collaborators from 36 different countries.
The biennale’s subtitle was inspired by American experimental film maker, anthropologist and musicologist Harry Everett Smith (1923-1991) who released a box set of historic recordings entitled Anthology of American Folk Music in 1952.
In turn, Barnbrook took inspiration from Everett Smith’s work to develop a modular identity system for the festival comprising a myriad typefaces shapes, patterns and illustrations that can be combined, the studio tells us, “to create unlikely juxtapositions that individually reference the history of print and typography and which create an unmistakably contemporary voice.”
The identity is based around a modular system of blocks, designed to be flexible in order to work across a multitude of applications, from the cover of the festival’s catalogue (cover and spreads shown above), to the festival’s website, bags, T-shirts, posters and signage. The modular blocks are uniform in shape to allow easy tessellation and there are two layers.
A primary layer block contains textual information and illustrations drawn from old scientific reference books, stills from Smith’s films, astrological manuscripts and mathematical text books…
The secondary layer blocks form abstract shapes…
and patterns based on geometry and halftone printing techniques…
The various elements are designed to be put together thus:
All designs can be applied in monotone (black), duotone (red and black) or tritone (black, red and white).
“The typography is deliberately awkward,” the studio tells us. “Forced justification, bad kerning and strange combinations of typefaces are inspired by letterpress, early/mid-twentieth century print, and specifically reference Smith’s American Folk Music sleeve notes. The challenge was to create a system that doesn’t appear formulaic and predictable but has a unified voice – a celebration of diversity and unity.”
Here are some shots of the identity applied across signage, banners, posters and other items:
To find out more about the 17th Biennale of Sydney – and to see how the identity works online / on-screen – visit biennaleofsydney.com.au/