Next Wave 2008, opportunity is closer

In Victoria there are over sixty if not seventy festivals of all description — food, film, sexuality, scarfs, street and culture. Established in 1985, Next Wave happens every two years, and it is a festival designed to break the rules of possibly and find Australian creative people, between 16 and 30 years, seeking answers to things that they don’t have questions yet.

The time frame and subject matter makes Next Wave a highly anticipated event. A special design project therefore presents itself, which requires a thoughtful, demanding and defining approach from festival management and subsequent festival designers.

What comes with the territory with this brief is a festival director willing to push their designers and together present a body of communication that is like an event, or a presentation on the festival‘s roll of activities. Contemporary festival design is attracting a graphic style of elements that are increasingly symbolic. The themes are broad and diverse, the renderings are a multiplicity of fantastic techniques, the language is that of catch-cries.

Festivals are becoming slicker, better funded affairs with a range communication formula. In this instance the audience would be forgiven if they perceive that graphic presentation of festival fixtures appear to blend into each other, year in year out. Resulting in audience that can’t help to blob festivals into one broad category, that competes along with sport, politics, and shopping.

Next Wave pops up every two years and prods the festival marketing scene. When Tin & Ed with Marcus Westbury dropped in 2004 with their Unpopular Culture concept their bold and clunky type teetered above a detailed, delicate and bored drawing come complex doodle of a boiling over cityscape. It was an image that contrasted with the highly refined, symbolic and clean imagery that occupies the visual presentation of many contemporary festivals of the day.

In 2006 Qube Konstrukt with Westbury continued to push onto the audience an image rich with detail, layers and themes wrapped up in an idea Empire Games — a playful companion to the the 2006 Commonwealth Games Arts Festival. A series of utopic islands in the sky evolved, places of the future for the future, remote, busy, peopleless. Floating worlds in an outer space from an old Warner Bros cartoon starring Daffy Duck and a big ray gun pointing at Earth.

The detail in both festivals seemed almost impossible to achieve and economically stupid for an average studio to undertake. Hundreds of hours were thrown at outcomes that could never be recovered in a financial sense. As other festival design studios streamlined processes to break even, a new breed of festival designers devoted every spare hour they could muster in the interests of making their idea of good work, whilst working on projects that paid the bills.

In 2008 a new artistic director Jeff Khan along graphic designers Chase and Galley, tore up the rich image making of the past and developed an outcome that contrasts with bold thought provoking statements and a style of image making that mimicks concept based art. A careful process dictated the outcome, which involved the serendipity encountered when employing the services of computer based search engines. It is a multimedia based outcome, it is clunky and ugly, it is a solution at the finger tips of any computer operator, it is text book like, it is without one graphic to fix ones gaze, it is a set of components with an infinite set of outcomes.

The type face choices are default and familiar. The festival type mark is out of focus; layers of fonts used for motor vehicle number plates, expressed in single solid over layed impressions of colours process. The headlines are unique combinations; layers of bold strike through lines and number plate type in single colours process again.

The layouts are careful, crude and squared off along with default maps, liken to the encylopedia sets of the 1970s and 1980s sold to families by door to door salesmen. The body text is a crappy cut of Times Roman. Black ink that is closer to used motor oil, soaks into non acid free newsprint, in the broad sheet format, yuck me, yes.

It is an outcome about the messages, poetics, the merging of similar and disparate ideas. It is a theme about engendering the audience and it starts the threads of thinking that honors the idea of Closer Together. The fruits are bitter sweet. The audience is given a challenging and effective design outcome, however are we closer together with all the infinite possibilities to connect and reconnect? The restraint of the work seems to also raise another question: with all these options to connect with each, are we indeed any closer?

Visit Tin and Ed, Qube Konstrukt, Chase and Galley and the Next Wave festival here.

Images of 2008 Next Wave courtesy of Chase & Galley.


2 Comments so far

  1. nev May 23rd, 2008 10:43 pm

    I’ve also been wondering about the new Next Wave identity. I much preferred the detail and aesthetics of the previous two and can’t stand the look of the new brochure. I can’t help thinking that this was on purpose, but it has put me off the festival. It might be brave, it might be part of the ‘New Ugly’, its aesthetics are part of the myspace vernacular, but I find it daunting. I was looking forward to this years Next Wave festival, as well as to see what Chase & Galley could come up with, but am finding myself severely disappointed. What’s more, I can’t read it, and can’t be bothered putting in the effort to go through the huge format.

  2. Anonymous June 25th, 2008 6:25 pm