• Brisbane Festival Logo (Pink)
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In the spotlight: An interview with designer Kevin Finn on inspiration, building a corporate identity the Brisbane festival & more...

22.08.2014 /  Design

Kevin Finn is an internationally respected designer and founder of TheSumOf, a design practice and publisher based in Brisbane, Australia.

Kevin Finn is also the founder, editor and publisher of Open Manifesto, a publication unlike most other design journals in the world, focusing on the intersection of design with social, political, cultural and economic issues. Contributors have included Edward de Bono, Noam Chomsky and Alain de Botton, among many others.

In addition, Finn is also founder and producer of DESIGNerd 100+, the world’s first series of graphic design trivia games, featuring questions from some of the most significant designers in the world.

This month Kevin is sharing his insights into the secrets of good design.

1) Why did you get into design?

It was actually by accident. I was studying computer programming and my girlfriend at the time was studying graphic design. I had no idea what graphic design was, but the assignments my girlfriend was doing on the weekends seemed so interesting. After three weeks I decided I needed to change courses. Luckily, my parents recognised that I was serious about a course I knew nothing about and encouraged and supported me to change courses. It wasn’t until my second year of design school that I finally understood what graphic design is.

2) I know it’s a bit cliché, but where do you go for inspiration?

Everywhere and anywhere. One of my favourite quotes is from fashion designer Paul Smith: “You can find inspiration in everything (And if you can’t, look again)”. It’s the title of his book.

3) Great design can happen in a matter of seconds, when you find inspiration how do you turn that into design?

By any means possible, but usually by trial and error. There are times “inspiration will strike” but when you start to develop it as an idea you discover it isn’t all that fantastic – but it leads to somewhere else that is, and I find that’s how inspiration often works.

4) What questions do you find helpful to ask when creating a corporate identity?

It is essential to know who the organisation is talking to, what they are saying to them, whether they can live up to what they say and whether anyone will (or should) care about what they are saying. And that’s just the beginning.

5) What was unique about creating the identity for the Brisbane Festival compared with your other projects?

The Brisbane Festival identity was created using the same process I use for all my identity work. But each identity responds to the organisation that it is designed for and in the case of the Brisbane Festival I wanted to focus on a side of the Arts and Culture world we don’t always acknowledge. We are so often focus on the ‘creative’ side of the arts, and forget the structure that is required to pull it all together. As a result, I was adamant to create a symbol that would reflect the dynamism of the Brisbane Festival (the squiggle) and the very organised structure that supports it (the angular ‘b’); but also the energy of the city (the squiggle) and the city itself (the angular ‘b’). Noel Staunton (Festival Artistic Director), Tony Assness (Festival Creative Director) and myself agreed on three specific points in our first conversation: 1) The community should be proud of the Festival; 2) It is an international festival that happens to be based in Brisbane so it should look like it could be in London, New York, Tokyo, anywhere; 3) The Festival needs to build a brand and it needs a brand icon to help that endeavour. This has been the basis of all the work we have created since I began working with the Festival in 2010.

5) In just a few years the magenta undertones and the squiggly line within a letter “b” has become synonymous with the Brisbane Festival, a “Batman signal” if you will. What steps are taken each year to ensure the Festival’s brand is developed properly and what is your involvement?

The development of the Brisbane Festival ‘brand’ is in the hands of the executive and the board, like it is with any organisation. However, we have collectively developed a number of visual branding elements to help achieve this. And each year that I am involved, which has been since 2010, I am in a privileged position to help further build the communication of the rapidly developing (and increasingly strong) Brisbane Festival brand.

6) Why Pink?

We chose Rhodamine Red in 2012 to reflect a fresh, sassy, fun and dynamic attitude. However, we also quickly realised a very functional aspect: it is the perfect colour to sit strongly against the Brisbane cityscape. It has such impact…

7) Is there a theme behind this years Festival? If so, what is it and why was it chosen?

The theme this year reflects the relationship between digital and traditional medium. It also subtly reflects the symbolism found in many of the performances, hence the specific headline typeface I selected.

Bris Fest Program 2014

8) How do you describe your thought process and design style?

I have always tried to steer away from a ‘house style’ and prefer to have a style of thinking instead. Whether I have been successful in this endeavour is for others to say. I do feel I am naturally inclined to simple communication, something that can be easily accessed and understood, but which also potentially has multiple interpretations

DESIGNerd logotype

9) You’re such a Design Nerd. Wait, haven’t you recently released an app called DESIGNerd? Do tell…

I love design, and I love learning about design. Because of this, I wanted to create a fun and engaging way to learn about design so I developed the world’s first design trivia series featuring signature volumes from some of the most significant designers practicing today. It is called DESIGNerd 100+ and currently has three volumes with 100 questions per volume, including bonus questions and “Did you know?” facts. There are up to four new volumes currently in planning.

DESIGNerd icon

10) What’s next for Kevin Finn?

New volumes of the DESIGNerd trivia series (www.designerd.info); Completing issue #7 of my design journal (www.openmanifesto.net); Completing the identity work for de Bono Global (Edward de Bobo’s global management organisation); Speaking at Sex Drugs & Helvetica event in Brisbane and Melbourne; and a host of other exciting things…