Award-Winning Rebrand: The Austin Film Society

Editor’s Note: This project won Best of Region for Southwest in PRINT’s 2017 Regional Design Awards. See all of the winners here, and don’t forget to enter the 2018 Regional Design Awards.


What sounds like a nightmare—designing 20 variations of a logo—became the thrilling center of Foxtrot’s rebrand for the Austin Film Society. Early on, the team decided to avoid cliché imagery like film reels. “This self-imposed limitation forced us to look beyond the expected reference points,” says Foxtrot art director Ryan Thompson. The firm also had to consider that the logo would be used in both animated and static form. “The logo needed to be a workhorse,” says creative director Jann Baskett. “We decided to develop a dynamic system of 20 different logos that appear to move and bend in space. While static logos tend to become invisible over time, this identity continues to challenge the viewer because it’s always changing.”

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Austin Film Society CEO Rebecca Campbell says that out of the five directions Foxtrot presented, this was the riskiest, and they were afraid people might not understand the goal of paying homage to celluloid film stock. However, they decided that while most organizations can’t get away with risky, they indeed could. “We were ultimately thrilled at how well it has worked as the mother brand for all our properties,” says Richard Linklater, AFS artistic director.

The team experimented a lot in creating subtle movement with each logo in a way that felt natural, ranging from playing with light using a handheld projector to photographing the logo through a glass of water. They landed on printing out an undistorted logo, bending the paper, and photographing it. “After a winding path of analog design explorations, this technique ended up as the most simple, but it gave us the best results,” says Foxtrot senior designer Oscar Morris. Southwest judge Jessica Hische says the system’s brilliant details are what pushed it to the top. “The typography is masterful. It all sticks to a clearly defined system, but still feels adventurous—it’s not just the same few layouts or styles repeated over all of the materials. Each item feels special and well-considered.”

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