“Integrated” is a biennial international art and design conference, held at De Singel, Antwerp. The sixth edition, subtitled ‘Between Creativity and Criminality: The Art and Design of the Civil Domain’, focused on the ambiguous space between market and state. In this civil domain, innovative design ideas, both physical and virtual, are often incubated in a grey zone between legality and illegality. Citizen initiatives, for instance, occupy an increasingly significant place in society. These are movements that emerge because an authority has (still) not developed a policy for them or because a market has (still) not seen the point of them and is therefore waiting.
Upon brief, we were confronted with these interesting paradoxes: does the public space, mentioned in the title of the conference, still offer an inviting canvas for communication, and is this space still primarily physical? We challenged the idea of “the poster” – a communication tool very much within the physical public space, but also an archetype of graphic design – being the main communication deliverable for the event (as it was in past editions). Posters have become wallpaper in the urban landscape while people walk by, staring at their phones. With no real budget for distribution through an outdoor media network, we came up with a meta-concept of a ‘post real’ poster campaign.
Using a unique alphabet of posters, we wrote short provoking platitudes, sloganesque statements and topical juxtapositions and plastered them all over the digital canvas. We essentially made dozens of posters, of which we made “faux” in-situ visuals. These images of our posters, spelling out messages in the streets of Antwerp, were spread on social media, blogs and PR communication. In essence, the poster (and its message) was distributed before it was printed. Some of these posters were of course also actually printed and distributed. They also served as a “I’ve been there and got the poster” desirable.
Because of the necessary symmetry in the character count, this copywriting exercise turned out to be a fun word game. Like a puzzle. We chose mainly chose short, impactful juxtapositions. Either directly linking to the conference or speakers, or more generally relevant and topical. They were inspired by the speakers or topical events, and written in dialogue with conference responsible Hugo Puttaert. They incite action and a sense of urgency.
With a brief about creativity and criminality, a graphical direction referencing spray paint and street-art was initially exactly what we didn’t want to do. But we kept returning to it, thinking to ourselves: “It’s a cliché not to use a cliché”. We wanted the designs to be clear and simple, but have an extra dimension to it. We wanted to use this visual reference, but in a different way. Hence the copy-heavy campaign. But also the play on; is it “real” or not?
This ambiguity, a very prominent factor in the conference’s theme, is also present in each of the individual posters: the red spray-painted letters are sometimes in front, sometimes behind the black “institutional” letters. So it clearly can’t be actual spray-paint… or can it?
Within this concept, other communication deliverables were also developed, including a brochure, programme booklet, stage design, motion video for speaker announcements, tickets, bracelets and merchandise.
- Creative Directors Ben Boliau, Jelle Marechal
- Art Directors Jelle Maréchal
- Designers Jelle Maréchal, Iain Denissen
- Illustrators –
- Photographers Evi Peeters, Ben Boliau, Tijs Vervecken
- Editors –
- Copywriters Ben Boliau, Jelle Maréchal
- Website Developer Matthias Deckx