Go Backstage with the Collected Works’ Governors Ball Branding
MIKE O'DONNELL / EDITOR
The Collected Works has been on a roll lately. The NY-based graphic design studio, consisting of WNW Members Justin Colt and Jose Fresneda, keeps propelling itself forward with a range of diverse projects from album packaging for a Grateful Dead celebration to visualizing the internet for a sleek new router. Their latest undertaking was creating the entire identity and branding for this year's Governors Ball. As we said, they're on a roll.
This isn't the studio's first foray into designing an identity for a big event. Last year, they cut their teeth on The Meadows, another music festival in New York. They also helped Working Not Working with the identity and visuals for their 5th Birthday Party in January, which one attendee called "the single greatest event of the decade." Anyways, below we talk to Justin and Jose about their process and mission for designing the Governors Ball as the event to kick off summer in New York. They also share some insights into the learning curve that came with 3D modeling and animation, and tell us what it was like actually attending the event as VIPs and seeing their work in action.
How did you come to create the branding and identity for this year’s Governors Ball?
A year earlier we had worked with Founders Entertainment, the creators of Governor’s Ball on the identity and design for The Meadows, another music festival that they were putting together. It was a great partnership, and we really enjoyed working with them. This seemed to be a mutual feeling since they invited us to pitch ideas for Gov Ball after The Meadows wrapped up. We went all in on the pitch and developed a handful of concepts that we presented. They liked one of those directions quite a bit, and we were hired to develop the whole system and expand it for the festival.
What were some of your goals and inspirations for the aesthetic?
The main inspiration for the identity is summer in New York–good vibes, a positive atmosphere and (hopefully) nice weather. Repeated festival attendees think of Governors Ball kicking off the start of summer in the city, and the identity should have this same excitement. So, we already knew that we wanted a bright and vibrant color palette and overall energetic attitude.
The other aspect that makes Gov Ball special is that it’s a festival made by New Yorkers for New Yorkers. It’s deeply rooted in NYC, and we saw a great opportunity to use icons of the city to build the identity system. It should feel born and raised in New York.
What was the hardest part of nailing down the identity?
Taking a dive into 3D modeling and animation was a big learning curve. We had a great designer, Ben Ross, working here at the studio, who taught us all a ton about Cinema 4D and how to model all these objects. One of the hardest parts was creating a consistent set of 3D models, that would work together as a unified set. For instance, many of these items were created from scratch, here at the studio. However, for the gigantic Manhattan 3D model, we had to find a pre-existing map that we could customize–as creating this from scratch would take forever. Then, we had to ensure all these different objects (ones we modeled here, and ones we had to source) all felt like they matched and belonged together.
The other bottleneck was the amount of time needed to render everything. We had built a custom PC to handle the workload, which was pretty efficient at still frames, but took a ton of time for animation. For instance, 1 second of video would take about an hour to render. So a 60-second animation took days to render, which created some time crunches.
Once everything was actually modeled and rendered it was pretty smooth sailing. We essentially had a massive toolkit of all these objects, which we could keep pulling from and reusing.
How did creating a festival identity differ from creating one for a company?
From a conceptual standpoint, we approach both types of projects in the same way. One thing that we always push when working on identity design is the importance of thinking about the greater system that has to be in place, rather than just the individual pieces. The poster, website, tickets, signage, animations and stage design all need to feel consistent–to name a few. That’s very similar to working with most clients.
However, there are a ton of politics when dealing with artists. For a better part of the process, we don’t even know who’s going to be performing at the festival that year. Then, when the lineup is figured out, there are a bunch of contractual obligations we need to follow. The order of artists, when we can announce they are booked, the size of the artists' names, the color of the artists' names; all of these are things that artist managers dictate long in advance, and will need to sign off on. So, it all becomes a sort of jigsaw puzzle, to satisfy these obligations but still have everything feel well designed. You’ll see a lot of ugly festival posters, and this is usually the reason why–because there are hundreds of cooks in the kitchen, and everyone wants their aesthetic preferences to come through, and their artist to have top billing. I guess that’s show business for you.
How did it feel seeing the fruits of your labor all over the festival?
We’ve been very lucky as a studio, to work with clients we sincerely appreciate and respect. It feels incredibly exciting to be involved with a project that we have a vested interest in and, in this case, a festival we would have paid money to attend even if we didn’t work on.
A few highlights are seeing our design work all around the city–some posters are wheat-pasted across the street from the studio right now for instance. It’s also rad to see artists and their fans sharing the work on social media, and everyone feeling sincerely excited about the event. Finally, being at the festival itself is especially awesome. The design system really comes together at that point, and all these dozens of elements (screens, tickets, signs, apparel, stickers, tattoos, sculptures, geofilters, stages) create an incredibly consistent and strong system and experience.
Who were some of your favorite acts at the festival? Did you get a VIP experience?
Let’s see, some of our personal favorites were Chance, Beach House, Francis and the Lights, Childish Gambino, Wu-Tang, Air, The Avalanches, Mac Demarco and Warpaint.
Gov Ball also hooked us all up with VIP tickets, which was the icing on the cake. It’s pretty awesome to hang backstage to see how a festival and a concert is run from that perspective–which is incredibly overwhelming. Oh, and the VIP bathrooms are pretty nice.
What’s next for you?
We have some rad projects in the pipeline that we’re excited about. We’re designing everything for The Meadows 2017, which is coming up in a few months. It’s an evolution of the identity we designed last year, and another one of our favorite projects. We just finished up the branding and design for another festival called Suwannee Hulaween, that’s happening down in Florida. We’ve also been working on the live visuals for Japanese rockstar, helping one of our favorite bands The National with their website and a bunch of animations, playing around with some VR projects, and doing a few self-initiated projects.
We might throw a big studio party in the next few months, and are trying to figure out how to brew and package a bunch of beer to give away.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Wanted to give a big thank you again to Tom, Josh and Laura at Founders Entertainment for the continued collaboration with Gov Ball and The Meadows. Another huge thanks to you, Working Not Working, for the continued opportunities you’ve connected us with. We’re huge WNW fans over here. Also thanks to Ben, Ahna, Steph and Ethan for all the Gov Ball help. Finally, we always want to connect with interesting people, so if you’re reading this and want to get in touch, hit us up!