Birmingham Design Festival’s visual branding inspired by the city’s creative heritage

Known as the ‘City of a Thousand Trades’ and ‘the workshop of the world’, Birmingham has a long history of creativity, craft and industry.

The Birmingham Design Festival was launched this year to celebrate this dynamic design industry. Needing a fittingly strong visual identity, a team consisting of Luke Tonge, Ash O’Brien from Two of Us and Paul Felton from Common Curiosity, came together to create a series of graphics to communicate the festival’s story.

The team found their inspiration in hallmarks. Dating back as far as 4th century AD, hallmarks contain letters, numerals and symbols, struck on metal items to denote the content of the piece, the maker behind the design and any distinguishing characteristics. It’s a graphic system that is still prevalent in the jewellery industry - one of Birmingham’s most famous exports - providing a perfect link to the festival.

Experimenting with letters, numerals and symbols relevant to the Birmingham Design Festival, the team set about creating a series of graphic shapes inspired by hallmarks. The result was a series of graphic elements holding the name/acronym and the year of the festival, with the flexibility to develop into multiple and ever-changing logos.

The city’s official coat of arms also provided inspiration, with the use of a blue and grey colour palette, and the word ‘Forward’, which has sat under the coat of arms since 1838, used as the theme for this year’s festival, represented by a triangle at the end of the logo set.

Typography was the final key element, with three typefaces selected: Cornelia, for its similarities to old factory and warehouse signage; Noe Display, for its chiselled serifs that reference Birmingham’s industrial heritage, and Baskerville, in homage to Birmingham’s most famous type designer, John Baskerville.

The end result is a visual identity with substance and longevity, harnessing the city’s long and rich history of design and bringing the Brummie reputation for craft and the handmade to the fore.


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