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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Creating a Graphic Identity for Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

At BAM, we pride ourselves on creating a visual identity as adventurous as the artists on our stages. From print materials to web presence, we continually play and reinvent our brand to reflect the programs, while keeping within the flexible style guidelines established by Pentagram's Michael Bierut in 1994. When announcing Crossing Brooklyn Ferry—a three day music and film festival curated by neighbors Bryce and Aaron Dessner of The National—we had an opportunity to create something really special that reflected the unique communal spirit of the Brooklyn artistic community.

Appropriately, the first seeds of the artistic identity sprouted from Karl Jensen, a Brooklyn artist who has worked with The National. The Dessners put us in touch with him, and we were blown away by his ideas—he was inspired by everything from Walt Whitman to Woodstock. Here are a few of the images he showed us:

Whitman himself, who penned 
the poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry
Woodstock as an American Eden 
Early American frakturs
Some of Karl's sketches of Whitman-esque, musically-inclined children 
Most of all, we loved these incredible instruments he created out of cardboard. Lovingly hand-embellished and meticulously crafted, they spoke to the kind of DIY ethos we were trying to evoke, as well as a kind of childlike innocence—almost like playthings:

Here are a few words from Karl about the project:

I wanted to convey the intimacy of making things in the studio, the open-ended play and the joy of creating something. That sense of “I can do that,” giving yourself the freedom to make your own world. It’s all a very youthful thing to me. And of course Whitman, with his energy and sense of wonder, so easily embodies this.

Given such exciting source images, BAM's designers then had to work at transforming them into a website with its own distinct identity. Creating an identity involves many interconnected elements, such as a logo treatment, primary and secondary typefaces, color palettes, and guidelines for usage. For our designers, the challenge was to create something new that still fit in with our existing brand identity—something that still “looked like BAM.”

Being BAM employees, the web designers wanted to do something adventurous—to play with the instruments using the inventive technique known as parallax scrolling. This creates an illusion of depth perception on a flat screen, so it was particularly appealing for this project because Karl’s instruments would appear more real. It took a lot of work but we think the result is pretty groovy. Let us know what you think in the comments!

Check out the finished product at

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