EAF Commissioning Circle Card

The Edinburgh Art Festival asked me to design a card inviting people to join their newly-launched Commissioning Circle, a patrons scheme created to support the work of the festival. The festival sent me some examples of other patrons scheme invitations that they liked, along with a loose brief to design something with ‘minimal, bold text’ that would fit with the other printed material that I was designing, and to be printed on ‘high quality paper/card’.

After showing some early iterations that used the typeface Freight for the body text with Freight Sans for the titling, the festival expressed a preference for a more formal font, so I selected Garamond which I used with Active Grotesk Bold for the titling. These early iterations had full bleed images of EAF commissions on the front with a similar arrangement of type as the finished version, reversed out of the image, and mainly ranged left in the top left-hand corner. The arrangement of text on the back was a simple hierarchy of ranged left, ragged right type that aimed to break up what is quite a lot of information, in to understandable parts.

I started to think about the festival’s preference for a more formal typeface and how that formality might be expressed in the design on the front. The obvious solution was to centre the type, which, I think, always carries some connotations of formality as it echoes traditional book typography. The centred type didn't work very well with the selection of images that the festival had sent me – and they had also expressed reservations about using only one image to reflect the range of their commissions – so I started to think about a circle logo and how that might be used instead of an image.

I developed several iterations of the circle theme and it became clear that a circle reverse out of a colour would be the best solution: the festival had already expressed a preference for an uncoated card and I knew that a flat colour would work very well on this stock. I had been using Photoshop to pick out colours from the cover images to develop a colour for the back of the card that would create a link with the front: the sage green happened almost by accident and I knew that this was the prefect colour – fortunately, when I sent the next set of iterations, including other colour options, the festival agreed that the sage was the best option.

The design was completed with a second, smaller circle logo on the back of the card, which was offset to the left so that it echoed the ranged left typography on the reverse and also emphasised the information about the levels of support. The second circle was printed as a 25% tint of the colour on the front as it hindered reading of the text (which was printed black). The EAF logo was placed in the lower right-hand corner as a way of grounding the design and creating a sense of balance.

The card is 150 x 200 mm and was printed on Horizon Offset 350gsm by Allander in Edinburgh.

Sorcha Carey, Director, Edinburgh Art Festival: We have worked with James Brook on a number of different festival design projects since 2014, ranging from substantial exhibition catalogues, smaller interpretation booklets and leaflets, through to devising bespoke identities for discrete projects and initiatives. He has a wealth of knowledge of typography, graphic design, print and book production, is incredibly thoughtful and considered in his approach, and always responds to a brief with creativity and rigour in equal measure. I can’t recommend him highly enough. 

Cover of Platform: 2019 Leaflet

This is the cover of a leaflet that I designed for Platform, Edinburgh Art Festival’s showcase for Scotland based artists at the beginning of their careers. The 2019 edition, selected by artists Monster Chetwynd and Toby Paterson, brought together new work by Anna Danielewicz, Joanne Dawson, Harry Maberly and Suds McKenna. The exhibition ran from 25 July until 25 August and was held at The Fire Station at Edinburgh College of Art, 76-78 Lauriston Place, Edinburgh, EH3 9DE.

I have designed four previous iterations of the leaflet, using a logo and identity that I originally developed in 2015. Each year’s version featured a unique arrangement of the cover elements alongside a new cover colour, taken from the imagery within. For the fifth year of Platform, the Art Festival invited me to refresh the identity: I created a new look that draws on elements of the previous designs with a new size, 210 x 165mm, that aligns it with the EAF commissions booklet that I also designed. The new design includes the circles (taken from the colon that appears in Platform: 2019) with imagery selected from one of the four artists, in this instance, the work of the brilliant Harry Maberly. I used two typefaces, Freight Sans Pro and Adelle Sans, selected for their character and readability, and used different weights of Adelle Sans to create a new logo that echoes the previous logo, which was set in Akzidenz Grotesk. Inside, the layout follows the design of the previous four iterations but the wider page size gives a feeling of space and gives images priority. The leaflet was printed by Allander, Edinburgh, on Horizon Offset 170gsm.


Cover of ‘Stories for an Uncertain World’ Booklet

This is the cover of Stories for an Uncertain World, the booklet that I designed for the Edinburgh Art Festival 2019 commissions programme.

In the context of ‘major geo-political and societal shifts’, the EAF Commissions Programme brings together five artists with new projects that ‘reflect the uncertain times we find ourselves in, poised between the disintegration of an old world order, and taking the initial faltering steps towards an unknown future’. The participating artists are: Nathan Coley, Alfredo Jaar, Rosalind Nashashibi, Sriwhana Spong, and Corin Sworn.

While working through ideas for the cover of the booklet, I was thinking about ideas of uncertainty, using transparencies and gradients to create type that dissolves, almost to the point of becoming unreadable. The main titles are set in uppercase and centred on the page, echoing traditional book typography and creating a sense of authority that generates a tension with the ethereality of the fading type. A further sense of uncertainty is created by the use of Museo for the titles, a typeface that initially appears rational but that, on closer inspection, carries subtle quirky elements that disrupt this message. Museo was designed by Jos Buivenga – his love for the uppercase letter U inspired this unique set of fonts: “In a daydream I saw the top of both stems bended into semi-slab serifs.” It is these curved slab serifs that give the typeface its idiosyncratic character.

I have used colour gradients on the inside and back covers (above), an effect that I wouldn’t normally use, but that felt appropriate in this context – the sky blue echoes the landscape in the cover photograph, a still from a film by artist Rosalind Nashahibi. For the body text and captions, I have used the typeface Aktiv Grotesk, a deliberately low-key choice that sits quietly in contrast with Museo. Imagery from the five artists is placed in sections that broadly correspond to the discussion of their work in the essay written by EAF director Sorcha Carey that forms the main body of the booklet.

The 24 page (plus 4 page cover) booklet was printed by Allander, in Edinburgh, on Horizon Offset 250gsm for the cover and Horizon Offset 140gsm for the text pages. The size, 210 x 165mm, follows the series of books and leaflets that I have previously designed for the Art Festival.




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