‘Art Exhibitions or YouTube cats?’: Branding for Riga’s new Biennial

Wiedemann Lampe has designed the identity for Riga’s inaugural Biennial of Contemporary Art. The consultancy also teamed up with Erik Kessels to create a playful typographic campaign promoting the event

Wiedemann Lampe collaborated with Erik Kessels on the promotional campaign for RIBOCA 1

The Riga Biennial of Contemporary Art was founded to help position the city as a leading art destination. London branding consultancy Wiedemann Lampe started working with Director Agniya Mirgorodskaya in 2016 and has designed a visual identity and wayfinding system for the inaugural event, RIBOCA 1. The consultancy also collaborated with Erik Kessels to create a marketing campaign with graffiti-style lettering.

Wiedemann Lampe says the branding aims to position the Biennial as an experience that “surprises, challenges [and] provokes your thoughts”.

A marketing campaign created with Erik Kessels toys with the letters in RIBOCA to create some playful phrases. Posters placed around the city have been ‘hijacked’ with graffiti-style lettering – one reads ‘Art Exhibitions or YouTube Cats?’ while another reads ‘Breathtaking, Vibrant, Offensive, Captivating Art’.

The branding process began with defining a wayfinding system to help visitors navigate their way around the Biennial’s various venues. Wiedemann Lampe created a system of geometric shapes, using triangles to signify locations, squares to signpost print content and circles for digital content (see gallery below for images).

Triangles are used in floor graphics and signage to direct visitors around each venue. Captions feature a four-digit code which can be typed into the digital RIBOCA guide to bring up information about that artwork, and relevant page numbers in the printed guide are displayed next to a square.

“The Biennial unfolds over eight venues across the city … over 100 artists, 120 artworks and all this in three languages (English, Latvian and Russian). Finding your way around can be challenging … [so] our system connects all the information using three symbols, making it easy for visitors to navigate between locations, artists and artworks,” explains Wiedemann Lampe.

Wiedemann Lampe wanted to create a “clear” and “bold” advertising campaign to promote the Biennial: “We used the Riga Biennial collaborating with Erik Kessels to create the palimpsest [visuals with superimposed text]…. The sentences are witty and make you think – designed to intrigue and entertain,” says the consultancy. This approach has been used to create posters and billboards as well as volunteer t-shirts and welcome messages for visitors.

The advertising injects a little personality into a pared down system. The visual identity has a contemporary, minimal feel but the black, white and red design of ads and billboards certainly stands out.

The Biennial programme spans architecture, design, art and photography. Erik Kessels is one of the many artists exhibiting this year and has created “an intervention” in the city’s zoological museum, placing images of humans among displays of fossils and stuffed animals.

The digital guide to RIBOCA 1

Kessels says the show explores the strangeness of humans – “We as humans look at displayed species full of curiosity and wonder…. But aren’t humans filled with the same kind of curious behaviour? Aren’t we also some kind of ‘strange animals?'” he says.

Images highlight “homing instincts and mating habits, the ways we preen, growl and spray”.

The Riga Biennial takes place from June 2 to October 28. See rigabiennial.com for more info about the event or see digital.rigabiennial.com to explore some of the artworks on display.