Now in it’s eighth year, DOC NYC is an annual documentary film festival located in New York City. Co-founded by Thom Powers and Raphaela Neihausen, the festival is the country's largest documentary film festival with over 300 films and events and 200 special guests. Being this was my first year collaborating with the team, I felt it was crucial to really dive into what makes the festival special. From early conversations with Thom and Raphaela, it became clear that it is put on with a lot of passion and love - not only celebrating documentaries, but also the community of filmmakers and industry professionals behind everything new and noteworthy in the world of nonfiction.
A design campaign that would support the 2017 festival. One that celebrated both the vibrant and diverse documentary community along with New York City - the festival’s home since its inception back in 2010.
First and foremost, the campaign needed to quickly convey a film festival based in NYC. Something that would grab someone’s attention as they shuffled down a busy sidewalk. Something that would stand out in the digital feeds. A visual that was minimal and simple but also offered a dramatic punch. In addition, it needed to offer us flexibility in order to be easily translated into a wide range of print and digital tactics.
We knew we’d be starting with the poster to create the identity of the 2017 festival and everything would branch off from there. After numerous conversations with the DOC NYC team and a few rounds of concepting, we landed on the filmstrip skyline. A collection of iconic New York building “cut out” of a two-dimensional/graphical representation of 35mm motion picture film. The colorful shapes start out as celluloid, but morph into buildings towards the top, with the sprocket holes changing into windows. The vibrant array of building colors are representative of the eclectic filmmakers and the stories they tell. Both of whom are lovingly showcased at the festival.
Now, you may be asking yourself, “hey, most movies aren’t shot on film anymore, so what gives?” Well, that’s a valid question. In fact, we had a full discussion around this very topic at the onset of concepting and this is where we landed. I believe that the image of a movie camera or film strip - when used in an iconic way - can still be very effective and fantastic job of quickly conveying “movies.” Honestly, I equate it to the email envelope or the floppy disk save icon. At a certain point, those icons transcend their physicality and visualize a larger concept. With that in mind, I was determined to take the familiar film strip image and create something vibrant and fresh.
Once we had the poster locked, I was hopeful we’d be able to leverage the film elements as well as the color scheme. I created a brief style guide for myself and the larger festival team to ensure the look and feel would be consistent across all digital and printed tactics. All in, we delivered more than 35 pieces of collateral including:
Outdoor Ads: We worked closely with the NY Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment to create variations of the main DOC NYC poster that would be placed in bus shelters and phone kiosks throughout the city.
The Catalog: I was thrilled to learn that the festival decided to change the specs of the catalog this year - increasing the size from 5.5” x 8.5” to 8.5” x 11”. Having more room to work with gave me a lot more creative freedom when it came to laying out the spreads. While this was definitely the biggest (and most stressful) tactic to deliver, it is far and away my favorite piece of collateral.
The Schedule: As you can imagine, designing a schedule for a film festival can be a moving target. Being new to the festival allowed me to take a step back and work through a couple different approaches. The schedule designed for the catalog used a more traditional calendar approach (days up top, venues along the side) while the blow-up, pocket guide and downloadable schedule had dates on the side and venues along the top.
Brochures: We created two brochures for this year’s festival. The pocket guide brochure summarized the festival program on one side and included a full festival schedule on the other. We also worked with the DOC NYC PRO team to create a double-sided quad fold brochure that showcased all 8 days of panels.
DOC NYC PRO: The PRO side of DOC NYC is as big of an event as the festival itself. In addition to creating tactics for the festival. So in addition to the brochure, we worked with the PRO team to support all of their events including an industry guide, screen cards, pull up banners, and event signage.
Other notable tactics included the official DOC NYC tee and tote, festival badges, award statues and certificates, Visionaries Tribute catalog, interstitials, pull-up banners, screen cards, newspaper ads, web banners, postcards, and social media graphics.
In the end, I had a ton of fun working with the incredible DOC NYC team to design the festival identity for 2017. And while it was stressful at times, everyone handled the journey with a calm, professional and overall chill approach - and I very much appreciate that. I’m already looking forward to next year, eager to improve on what we created in 2017.