This was a project as part of a school course that involved a real client; namely the Markham Board of Trade which is a business association that serves the Markham community and represents over 700 members. Every year the Markham Board of Trade holds their annual Business Excellence Awards Gala which is considered their biggest night of the year. Each year the event has a new theme and involves pre and post dinner receptions, a dinner, and networking. Typically, four hundred or so people attend and nine awards are presented.
The target audience is very diverse involving many high-tech or pharmaceutical companies that are described as large community players to smaller emerging companies looking to network and grow their business.
The Business Excellence Awards Gala has been described as “a celebration of entrepreneurial spirit, success and ingenuity where businesses of the community can come together for a good time and appreciate the success of local business”.
Designers were need to create a promotional poster for the event. The poster needed to be innovative and attractive while containing a level of entertainment and excitement.
The brief stated that the poster must appeal to a broad market, make sense within the Markham community, be unique, fun, and upbeat. In addition, the message needed to be simple and straightforward, with an image that would immediately invoke action. It was also required the provided body copy and logo be used and not altered.
The brief also included some design limitations. There were to be no religious affiliations, or violent or offensive graphics. As well, it was made clear that no clowns were to be used and only a careful use of animal imagery. Lastly, the Markham Board of Trade logo could not be altered in any way.
Before beginning this project, I read about the history of circuses and how they changed over time and evolved into what they are today. This provided me with background information and where I learned the circus was at its prime in the mid 1800s to early 1900s. I knew I wanted to take inspiration from this period and researched circus imagery collecting images that appealed to me. Once I had a collection of images, I reviewed them and focused on elements that I liked.
I found I was attracted to a primary colour palette which had been previously used in many posters of the past. I also liked borders, undulating baselines, and display fonts. The characters I was most attracted to included tight rope walkers, the ring master, and the strongman. All of these characters lack controversy surrounding them, so I thought these were good to explore.
At this point I made a number of layout sketches for the poster in order to work through ideas and start considering compositions.
I narrowed it down to the two ideas I liked best and explored those a little further in my design sketches.
While at first, I didn’t think the bike riding bear was offensive, upon receiving feedback, it was suggested I avoid the animal imagery altogether. I knew I could remove this element for my design if I chose to focus on the ringmaster, but after careful consideration I decided on the strongman concept for my poster. I knew he appealed to me more, especially when it came to the idea of illustrating him.
For the first version of the poster I essentially stuck to a primary colour scheme to depict the scene of the performance. The large title and the strongman grab the most attention while the secondary information is found within the barbell weights and the bottom right corner.
The decision was made to represent a lot of people in the audience. I wanted to portray the idea of a “full house” which has always been the objective of the circus and the main reason for star attractions. A full house says “This is a show worth seeing and I want to be there!” I felt it tied in nicely with the gala event as being something not to be missed.
I thought this version of the poster would work because I had a large headline to grab attention, a cohesive colour scheme, and thought I had established good information hierarchy.
Upon receiving feedback, it was pointed out that the audience actually made the poster look too busy for the viewer. More empty space was needed so the viewer’s eyes could rest from the other elements that needed to be there, such as the headline and the strongman’s patterned outfit.
I thought the placement of body copy and font sizes were a good choice but it was pointed out that while the size of the title font was fine, the rest of the text was too small and not eye catching enough.
It was also noted that the barbell weights were not big enough. While they were large, it was felt that even larger would be more impactful. After all, this is a very strong man!
This version of the poster implements a different headline as well as font changes. The headline font was changed from using only the font WoodenNickel to combining it with other fonts which included Lo-Type and Birmingham Titling for the headline and Carnivalee Freakshow for the words within the weights.
The barbell weights have been enlarged and given a three dimensional quality, and the border box for the secondary information on the bottom right has been made more elaborate.
I thought this version would work because the headline is more effective at getting attention and provided a better explanation of what this event is about. The weights have been enlarged and made to look more three dimensional and definitely more impressive, and the fonts were changed for better clarity and more interest. However, it wasn’t done yet.
Again, upon receiving feedback, it was pointed out that the headline while using different fonts, sort of all ran together. It was felt the clarity and general aesthetic could be improved with some more font and colour variations.
It was also noted that the poster actually lacked the Markham Board of Trade logo…. ooops! It had gotten overlooked in the process of developing the rest of the design!
In the final version of the poster, the headline and text within the weights have been changed, and redistributed. The font Berlin Bold was added to the headline to denote the Markham Board of Trade. This serves the purpose of having the company name be more noticeable and the headline more interesting since a more modern font is being contrasted with the period display fonts. The introduction of white for some of the text allows for better information hierarchy and improved readability.
The border box on the bottom right has been extended to allow for that text to also be altered. The result is definitely more eye-catching and dynamic.
I learned many things from completing this project such as the importance of receiving constructive criticism and having a good attitude when receiving it. I feel my project progressed and improved with each suggested change thereby reaffirming that revisions are worth doing. I also learned the importance of establishing the right fonts size for grabbing attention and creating good typographic hierarchy, as well as having areas of activity balanced with areas where the eye can rest.
The final design shows my choices to use the iconic circus image of the strongman. I gathered from the brief that the client appreciated iconic images because they are easy to recognize and a theme is easily built around them. I was thinking about the client’s other needs such as decorating and setting up of displays and again felt the strongman imagery provided something to the client outside the actual design brief.
I chose the words “unparalleled performers” because it means unequalled or supreme which ties nicely to the point of the event which is to honour the best in the business. The word “performer” has many meanings that actually conjure up images of circus players (acrobat, actor, artist, musician, star, tumbler…) but it also means “worker”. Again, it is a direct tie in with the award recipients who have needed to work hard in order to receive recognition at the event.
The final design works because it has a strong call to action. The colour scheme is in keeping with circus poster colours of the past but with a more Graohmodern look. The font choices are reminiscent of the Victorian era when circuses were in their heyday.
In addition, I used elements that are strongly associated with circuses such as stars, borders, and drums. The central strong man figure attracts the viewer who then follows the strongman’s gaze to read the poster headline. This illustrates good composition in that it leads the viewer’s eye to key elements.
The final design fits the brief because it appeals to a broad market, is fun, upbeat, and straightforward. It conveys the event theme without being controversial and it make use of the provided body copy and logo.
In the process of doing this project I learned it can be challenging to size type appropriately when only looking at a screen so it is truly worthwhile to do test prints. Actually seeing things on paper yields a different perception so it is important to view the project in the form that the final work will be in.