A few weekends ago I found myself standing among a crowd of mannequins, transfixed by a strobing barrage of images on a screen-based triptych that varied from the sinister to the hilarious to the straight-up WTF. The piece was an installation by art duo The Chapman Brothers, housed in a cavernous east London warehouse for one night only. It was just one of many bold and brilliant pieces in unusual spots in the area, put together as part of this year’s Art Night, “a free contemporary arts festival in extraordinary spaces.”
Also transfixing were the graphics, that managed to straddle that tricky line between informative and visually arresting. This year, the second incarnation of Art Night, they were created by east London-based agency Praline, and aimed to convey a sense of energy, opening up the one-day event to a broad crowd. “The idea was to create something energetic and playful to attract a wider audience,” says Praline designer Giovanni Pamio. “We wanted to show that there was something going on all night, so we used bright colors to show that energy.”
“We wanted to encourage people who might not be part of that geekier art crowd,” Praline founder David Tanguy adds. “I think we succeed: we saw older people, families. There was a really interesting buzz in the area, everyone was out and seeing the art.”
The graphics also looked to convey the temporary nature of the event, and to aid navigation to spaces that were usually hidden, or at least off the beaten track: closed warehouses, outdoor installations, even a Masonic temple near Liverpool Street Station in the city. The identity uses a yellow line device on the map graphics, and draws influence from architectural floor plans to highlight key locations. “We also wanted to highlight the artists themselves, so we showed their work in floating bubbles. The concept was to make people move around the area and discover new places and new art,” says Pamio. “The overriding thing was conveying energy, but you also have to show how to get to those places.”
According to Tanguy, early on in the project Praline looked at ideas of sunsets and gradients to show the nocturnal nature of Art Night. “We were talking about the sun changing and the moon changing, or day and night passing, but we didn’t want to be too literal,” he says. “So we just picked colors from that gradient—the orange, yellow, and the dark ‘midnight’ blue and used that as much as possible throughout.”
While the wordmark, color palette and other design elements were new for 2017, Praline retained the typefaces, Transport and Brown, from the 2016 event. “We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel completely,” says Pamio. “We retained the fonts, but it was more about how we used them—we were a bit more generous with the sizes and created the lockup for Art Night and the Whitechapel gallery, which wasn’t used last year [2016’s Art Night was in partnership with the ICA gallery]. There were quite a lot of people involved in Art Night—the curator, The Whitechapel, Phillips as at the main sponsor—so there were a lot of different people to listen to and please with the designs.”
The great thing about Praline’s work for Art Night is its balance of accessibility, playfulness, and acknowledgement of the often complex and bold ideas of the artists involved in the event. How do you get around balancing so many concerns? “You know the audience is quite design savvy and aware of a lot of visual culture,” says Pamio.
“They’ve probably seen a lot of art books and know a lot of interesting design, but we also had to make it approachable,” adds Tanguy. “We created designs that we could play around with across different sized posters, billboards, websites, and brochures. It’s about mixing the commercial to reach a wider audience, but also using a language that’s engaging for an art audience. We worked with a lot of galleries so we’re familiar with that world but as it’s a free event it needs energy, and it needed to be fun.”