DEC 2007

Branding the Fringe

PigPenOne of the more challenging tasks when founding any endeavor is defining the brand. I have needed to go through this process several times – and it is never easy.

I find myself searching for words, images, movies, anything that would express the mood and purpose fluttering about in my head. As I also work in the web development world, I end up collaborating with graphic artists often. I have done so enough to accept that I am not one of them – actually, I envy the natural inclination to make beauty out of ugliness and wish I had the talent for it. As such, I try not to communicate specific design ideas (they will be bad), rather I like to convey moods and non-specific images.

Some of your honorable producers and I were watching a wonderful documentary released recently called Helvetica. It’s about a font (you heard me right). Actually, helvetica is probably the single most used font of all time. I thought the film would put us in the correct mindset to tackle this recent challenge of branding the Fringe. What it has done is driven most of us slightly insane – this font is everywhere and we can’t stop noticing it. I needed to force myself to stop looking at typefaces else I might really start to lose it.

Typography aside, branding is tough. It’s tough because you need to first know what you want to express, then figure out the most artful way to express it. As such, we spent many a late night in these early days of planning (we go up in 2010) just talking about what the Fringe is. If the Fringe were a Peanuts character, who would it be? (pigpen). If it were an artist who would it be? (bansky). If it were a movie would it gross more than 100 million? (probably not).

We came up with some basic language to try to express our brand so artists could have a crack at it:

Graffiti Art – the Fringe is tagged on walls, sidewalks.
The Fringe is an idea whose time has come.
The idea EMERGED from the streets.
Floating molecules joined to become an organism – that organism is the Fringe.
“Fringe is Rising”
Grimy, Dirty, and Pure
It’s from the people
It had to happen.
Banksy meets hollywood.
A carnival, a circus

Then there was my idea to try to move forward without a well-defined brand. I wanted to make the brand a combination of all the artists with whom we collaborate – our brand is the brand of “Hollywood Art”. I felt like this would be the opening paragraph to a larger treatise shepherding in a “post branding era”. Noble thoughts, eh? Ok, so it isn’t very practical in practice. Recognizability goes a long way towards attracting audiences – certainly one of our “goals” in this process. Artist exposure is apart of our mission – and that’s hard to do without an audience.

Even though these initial, idealist notions may not work as initially conceived, I still think there is something to it. The Fringe is unique amongst artistic organizations in that it is a meeting of artistic minds, a hub of creative thought. Fringes bring together divergent forces in the art community into an organic whole. How can we graphically and artfully capture and represent this as an organization? These are the high minded thoughts that keep us up at night – we will all see how they work out.

We are making some progress, fortunately. We happen to be associates and friends with some very talented artists and are exploring some interesting ideas. As soon as we have some candidates, we will post them here.