We’ve always wanted to work with Canadian Stage. Why? Because they add something to the Canadian experience and their programming fuels the kind of gratifying conversation you can really only count on getting from a Woody Allen film.
Oh, and they’re our neighbours.
We’d been in talks for awhile about how we could wrap our skills and passion around the Canadian Stage family, when an opportunity arose to work with the Toronto performance company on their new event series. The creative minds at Canadian Stage had an interest in expanding their off-season programming to include a one-of-a-kind, immersive event series to explore themes and ideas stemming from Artistic Director Matthew Jocelyn’s programming.
Engaging in numerous ideation sessions with a trifecta comprised of Erin Schachter, Canadian Stage Education & Audience Development Manager, event producer Chad Wiseman of Wiseman Creative, and our humble selves, we worked to craft and curate an event brand with the malleability to present a broad range of creative, experiential content to new audiences. The result was INTERMISSION, an open space/open mind event series for the culturally curious.
Our Design Director, Eric Bargenda, was part of the team:
Q: This project presents and interesting opportunity for design to support a complex brand strategy. The design work needs to provide a context to introduce a new narrative framework, while preserving the hard-fought equity and earned value of the Canadian Stage brand. Where do you start with a brief like this?
Eric: You have to start with taking a good look at the sensibility of the Canadian Stage master brand, and how a sub brand or extension might fit within it. Because of the new cultural territory, content, and audience potential, the INTERMISSION brand needed to be visually distinct, but also reference and support the ideology of the master in subtle ways. I knew I wanted it to be a little avant-garde and intellectual, but not so much that it might risk alienating a general audience. The finished look is challenging and obscure, but the tone is accessible.
Q: Curated stock imagery plays a big part in introducing each INTERMISSION event, yet stock is rarely considered a desirable tool of the design trade. What’s up with that?
Eric: The initial, formative fleshing out for INTERMISSION really were focused on developing a suite a one-night-only, WTF experiences that cumulatively delivered a balanced theme based on the upcoming season’s programming. So, here’s this awesome party in a unique, compartmentalized space, with music, art, food, and visual interactivity, but at the centre is an accessible, but thematically obscure element. We spent a lot of time kicking around the concept of ‘foundling creative’, based on the idea that the meaning of these events will remain subjective, however deliberate and ingenious their curation.
At the agency, we keep a healthy folder of great, strange or bizarre stock photography generally found in the course of searching for something more typical on behalf of a client. We decided that some of the content of that folder – and the way it’s been collected over the years – were thematically ideal for this project. As an established theatre company, there’s courage in venturing into new territory and challenging the tried and true, simply for the hell of it. As a designer, there’s a certain courage in moving unloved trade used to compensate for limited budgets or desperation to a primary position within a visual idea.
The idea that there are millions of bold, undervalued visual compositions set adrift in stock libraries, uncalled and unwanted, is of interest to me. Thought I’d adopt a few.
Q: What do you feel are the essential elements of a successful event brand?
Eric: I’d say a from a design perspective the greatest priority is to avoid undue rigidity, oversimplifying and locking the brand down to the point where it can’t grow and adapt to meet future needs. This is true for all brands. We knew we were doing three events this summer, but we didn’t know which talents were going to make the bill for the upcoming events. The event brand needs to anticipate a changing conversation and lineup, appealing to people’s cultural curiosity and fear of missing out.
Q: This is the part all designers love – could you give us some insight on the INTERMISSION mark?
Eric: It’s all about the weight! The mark needed to be bold and memorable. Earlier rounds used a serif typeface in the black bands but it wasn’t doing the job. I was very attached to it and it was tough to let it go. Ultimately, to create balance between the INTERMISSION brand and the master Canadian Stage brand, we moved forward with Gotham Bold, the corporate typeface. Adding a new display typeface was tempting, but ultimately indefensible. In line with the event composition, the visual brand is based on a contrast of fine and bold elements working together to break and reestablish balance and flow.
Q: What stands out about the INTERMISSION event series?
Eric: Cool space. Great music. Curious people. Kind of a trip down the rabbit hole, but with grilled cheese sandwiches and the chance to count yourself among the intrepid travellers on the Toronto scene. I wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere else.