The Sydney Film Festival of 2020 had its frustrations and cancellations, but instead of canceling the 2021 festival, it was simply pushed back to a later date. With branding and identity designed by For The People, the visuals are full of energy, bold colors, and typography infused with pure joy. While bold, the essence is still welcoming, allowing a range of demographics to identify. Inspired by the fandom magazines of the 1990s, the 2021 Sydney Film Festival identity supports passionate energy with flexibility.
The film festival that nearly wasn’t.
In 2019, we worked with the Sydney Film Festival to relaunch their brand, focusing it on the earnest, passionate love of film that the Festival celebrates and cultivates.
For 2020, we had ambitious plans for a more in-depth exploration of film – taking the attendees behind-the-scenes, reframing and elevating oft-hidden production techniques and artefacts as part of the identity. But then… well, you know what happened in 2020. Suffice it to say, there was no Sydney Film Festival in 2020.
In 2021, the Sydney Film Festival was planned for June. Then July. Then September. But in November, it actually happened! And after going through this painstaking process of rebirth alongside the SFF team, we’d lost our desire to get into the nitty-gritty of film. The preceding two years had underscored the immense value of film’s simpler joys… and that’s what we wanted to focus on. The SFF brand was already very much about being a passionate film fan, but this year – out of a mixture of relief and gratitude – we wanted to kick it into overdrive.
Technicolour passion, now (back) in widescreen.
During the pandemic, we could watch films. But only at home. Mostly alone. On our (comparatively) small screens. It just wasn’t the same.
With the Sydney Film Festival returning just as lockdown restrictions eased in NSW, we knew this was the perfect opportunity to celebrate what we’d all had to go without for so long – gathering together, in those big, projector-lit rooms. Laughing, cheering and gasping together. Simply feeling together.
It’s a simple, beautiful thing – and it was coming back. And our bright, bold, and endlessly energetic identity could give it the comeback party it deserved.
The “motion” half of “motion pictures”.
The animated faux-production icons from SFF 2019 (that we used as pre-roll for screenings and as part of SFF advertisements) were a key part of that year’s identity – but we knew that if we wanted to capture the sense of excitement and energy we were going for, we’d have to expand the role of motion in the brand.
This year, it’s everywhere – in social posts, in digital OOH activations, and (of course) on the silver screen, the SFF identity bounces and pulses with palpable excitement
While the visual design helped cultivate that welcoming atmosphere, it fell to the writing to demonstrate that our fandom wasn’t just enthusiastic, but specific and authentic.
From the bite-sized entries of the “Film Brain/Life Brain” and “Film Fan Thing” series to the gently absurd “Dear SFF” series, the storytelling conveys an insightful understanding of exactly what it means to be a film fanatic. The good-natured ribbing that some of the executions give film fans also helps to chip away at any preconceived ideas about film festivals being smug or navel-gazing affairs – reminding Sydney that while we take films very seriously, we don’t take ourselves that seriously.
Sticking to what we love.
To express the earnest, unabashed fandom and passion of the SFF audience, we introduced a set of Instagram stickers – and other visual devices – that harken back to the fan magazines of the 1990s.
This was a key part of setting the right tone – both to remind existing festival fans that unironic, unbridled enthusiasm is part of what makes the SFF experience so enjoyable… and to communicate to potential newcomers that the Festival is accessible and welcoming, not pretentious or elitist.
The Sydney Film Festival 2021 identity very much responds to circumstance. It’s brimming with the relief that comes from getting to return to cinemas, and the joy that comes from getting to do so together. But it also holds onto (and in some cases, evolves) key elements from the SFF 2019 brand identity.
In balancing enthusiastic energy with consistency, it provides fans with permission to revel in the unbridled enthusiasm of the moment… whilst maintaining the brand foundation that will carry through into the (very soon to come!) SFF 2022 identity.
ECD: Jason Little
CREATIVE DIRECTORS: Mel Baillache and Johanna Roca
DESIGNERS: Georgia Urie, Mac Archibald, Atsaya Gabiryalpillai, Simon Blanckensee and Michelle Nguyen
MOTION DESIGN: Mac Archibald, Atsaya Gabiryalpillai, and Michelle Nguyen
ILLUSTRATION: Ilana Bodenstein and Michelle Nguyen
WRITER / STORYTELLER: Daniel St. Vincent and Mat Groom
ANIMATION: Mighty Nice and Peter Nizic
SOUND DESIGN: Smith and Western