Every fall the iconic identity for the Public Theater designed by Pentagram’s Paula Scher looks a little bit different—and yet entirely like itself. Over the past several years, Scher has been creating distinct mini-identities for the campaigns for each season’s slate of productions. The looks are first previewed in the summer promotions for Shakespeare in the Park. This year, the 2016-2017 season is announced with the Public’s signature strong typography surrounded by spiky comic book style speech bubbles and radiating lines, as originally seen in the “Love v War” campaign for the Delacorte this summer.
The summer campaigns used to exist apart from the fall season campaigns, but now the graphics for the Public’s most famous program help establish the seasonal look for all aspects of the institution. Working with Scher, Kirstin Huber, Art Director and Senior Graphic Designer at the Public and her in-house team build on the summer posters to create a full visual personality for the theater in graphics that appear on posters, the season brochure, print advertisements, the redesigned website, and banners for the façade of the Public, as well as promotional materials for Joe’s Pub.
Each year’s season design changes in color and in the use and spirit of Knockout, the font of the Public identity. One of the goals of the season campaigns is to create visual impact on a limited budget and help the Public stand out in New York’s crowded and constantly evolving cultural landscape. The graphics simultaneously need to be recognizable as the Public, and to be different than anything that came before—not an easy thing to do in the 22nd year of Scher’s continuing collaboration with the institution. Recent seasons have featured approaches that include slanted typography, overprinting, and a dynamic use of white space.
“Developing these mini-identities within the Public branding helps keep it fresh," says Scher. "Next year, we'll do it all over again."
The graphics make an especially dramatic impression on the street outside the Public, where the campaign has been installed in poster boxes that flank the theater's entrance, as well on matching banners on the restored façade. The campaign can also be seen in a season brochure, in print advertisements in major publications, and on the Public’s website.