Scott King creates a subversive campaign for Axis Festival

The art director and designer worked with Tom Etherington to create a purposefully misleading campaign for the German music festival, which is inspired by holiday postcards

For London-based art director and designer Scott King, music communications have become particularly uninspiring. “All music festival advertising looks the same doesn’t it,” he says. “This sort of middle-class homemade ice cream artisan aesthetic. Most [of it] looks like it was done by the in-house designers at Ben & Jerry’s.”

Hoping to challenge what he sees as the stereotypical festival “look”, King dreamt up a decidedly more unorthodox approach for German music festival Axis. Drawing on his previous work for Pop-Kultur festival in Berlin, which saw him produce thousands of cute kitten posters with performers’ names on them in the hope of getting people to take them home, he travelled to Rostock, where Axis is being held, looking for some unusual inspiration. 

The answer came to him in the form of posters based on vintage holiday postcards, which could be used once again to attract passersby without bearing any real connection to the festival itself – much like Pop-Kultur’s kittens. However, it turns out this idea was purely accidental, as King recalls flying to Rostock in anticipation of a warm, sunny city, like the ones seen in old travel advertisements. 

“I have no idea why, but I imagined that it was this very beautiful and idyllic place. I had images of it being like a Greek fishing village,” he explains. “When we arrived in Rostock, it was freezing cold – I mean, it sits almost on the Baltic – and it was December, and the town was sort of industrial. It was as far away from a Greek fishing village at the height of summer as you can possibly imagine. So this thought, this dumb misconception, was the basis for the campaign.”

Working with fellow London-based designer Tom Etherington, King developed a series of posters that “promote Rostock as ‘The World’s No.1 Summer Holiday Destination’.” It was intentional misinformation, and this was exactly what the pair were looking for.

“We wanted it to have that ‘Benidorm postcard’ aesthetic – a kind of design that is brilliant, and ‘homemade’, and wrong,” explains King. “So, Tom found all these Letraset-esque typefaces and we combined those with images from Kos, Corfu, Portofino, Barbados, and Hawaii. It was good fun to do, and the more ludicrous we made it, the better.”

The campaign was rolled out in two phases: first, as image-focused posters with just the Rostock name and small, ironic subheadings, and then as the same posters but with actual festival information shown over the top, including performer names, dates, and the location. This peculiar yet playful approach, it turns out, resonated with Rostock locals.

“We wanted to do something that people would love so much that they’d steal the poster,” he says, “and this is what has happened with the Axis ‘Rostock Paradise’ posters. They need to be replaced all the time, because they are constantly stolen – which to us, means it’s worked.”

Axis Festival takes place in Rostock on September 15-16;