From the outset we were keen that the branding had real substance and longevity. We wanted to develop a visual identity that trod a delicate balance of representing the city of Birmingham and its design industry, whilst swerving any overused clichés.
Birmingham has a long history of getting its hands dirty and making things, we’ve been known as the ‘City of a Thousand Trades’ and ‘the workshop of the world’. They’re sayings ingrained in our city, and a reputation us Brummies are all proud of. This reputation for craft and the handmade felt like something we should absolutely look to we bring to the fore and harness in the brand identity.
Through our research we uncovered a rich graphic language in existence for centuries — found in hallmarks. A hallmark is a series of marks containing letters, numerals and symbols, struck on metal items to denote the content of the piece, the maker behind the design and any distinguishing characteristics. Hallmarks date back to the 4th century AD — silver bars marked as belonging to Emperor Augustinian around AD 350 represents the oldest known form of consumer protection. This graphic system has continued to modern day and is prevalent in the jewellery industry — one of Birmingham’s most famous exports. The link between this system and making, jewellery and Birmingham felt like a perfect fit. Birmingham also has its own Assay Office, one of only four in the UK. We thought we could look to harness this graphic lexicon that is intrinsically linked to Birmingham’s historical and contemporary craft, but re-appropriate it for a contemporary forward-looking festival.
We began to create a series of graphic shapes inspired by existing hallmarks and experimented with including letters, numerals and symbols relevant to the Birmingham Design Festival. We really liked how we could be flexible with this system of ‘carriers’ and elements within, so created not a single logo, but a system whereby multiple and ever-changing logos could be developed. The elements are all rooted in the same rich aesthetic, so consistency is maintained by the parameters of colour, typeface and the system itself, allowing us to be flexible with the construction and arrangement.
The elements within the carriers will hold the name/acronym and the year of the festival, we have also developed a ‘BDF’ monogram in the shape of an anchor — a nod to Birmingham’s assay mark. Each year the festival will have a theme, which becomes the driving force behind the programme of events. Each years theme will have a symbol that gets added to that years logo set. For 2018 the theme derived from the Birmingham crest. The single word ‘Forward’ has sat proudly under the city’s coat of arms since 1838 as it grew from a town to a city, and it felt like the perfect theme for year one of the festival. The theme is represented by a triangle (an arrow) you see at the end of the logo. This symbol also references a hallmark symbol relating to an old assay mark from Birmingham.
The festivals ongoing colour palette is blue and grey — which is inspired by the Birmingham coat of arms. The accompanying palette will be defined by the yearly theme. A complimentary red and green hue were selected for the 2018 theme — both are energetic and progressive colours.
Typography also plays a key role in the identity, and for 2018 we had a suite of three typefaces. Cornelia is used in the wordmark and was selected for its similarities to the old factory and warehouse signage still visible on many of Birmingham’s institutions of craft and manufacturing. Noe Display is our primary typeface, selected for its chiselled serifs that again reference Birmingham’s industrial heritage and share visual similarities to the hallmarks. And finally we wanted to pay homage to Birmingham’s most famous type designer John Baskerville, so our body copy is set in Baskerville.