Craig & Karl and Tangent’s psychedelic identity for Edinburgh International Book Festival

Glasgow branding agency Tangent and illustrators Craig & Karl have created a colourful visual identity for this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival, inspired by 60s and 70s psychedelia and the idea of shared imagination

The Edinburgh International Book Festival takes place from August 13 – 29. 800 writers including novelists, playwrights, biographers, historians, economists, scientists and comic book creators will be taking part in 700 events across the city.

Each year, the festival takes on a different theme – this year’s strapline is ‘imagine better’ with talks and debates based around envisioning a better future. “This year’s Book Festival is about encouraging and celebrating the sort of courageous, positive, creative thinking that we desperately need in order to make the world a better place for everyone, rather than just for a privileged few,” says director Nick Barley. “Novelists, journalists, scientists and poets – writers are the people we always turn at a time when we need to imagine better,” he adds.

Psychedelic illustrations by Craig & Karl for a set of notebooks created for Edinburgh International Book Festival

In keeping with this theme and the idea of visionary thinking, Glasgow branding and design studio Tangent teamed up with illustration duo Craig & Karl to create a colourful identity inspired by 1960s and 70s psychedelia. Posters, programmes and notebooks feature bold illustrations of heads filled with vivid patterns, linked together by a rainbow-like device.

“By loosely following this visual language [of psychedelia and psychedelic art], we could set a tone that was celebratory and bright with a ‘festival feel’ but had a sense of depth suitable for much of the Book Festival’s subject matter,” says Tangent creative director David Whyte. “Terrance McKenna and Timothy Leary were initial conceptual reference points and visually, we wanted to draw on the unique style of 60s modernist science and psychology textbooks, where complex subject matter was brilliantly simplified into bright, playful visuals. We felt the work of Craig & Karl would be a perfect blend to achieve these aims, while at the same time giving the campaign a really vivid and contemporary style.”

Illustrators Craig & Karl and design studio Tangent Graphic's psychedelic visual identity for Edinburgh Book Festival features brightly coloured heads
Craig & Karl's brightly coloured psychedelic artwork for Edinburgh International Book Festival

Craig & Karl came up with the idea for using a human head in profile as the central image – each head is separated into figurative elements, such as an eye or mouth, which reflect thought and communication. “Other, more abstracted elements are left open to interpretation,” says Karl Maier. “We like the idea that on their own each head reflects a complex inner world, but when joined together the focus shifts towards conversation and shared experience.”


The identity feels fresh and contemporary and the bold artwork is equally suited to communications aimed at both children and adults. The design will be rolled out across print and online ads, programmes, merchandise and on-site graphics this summer.

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