For the fifth year running, Pentagram designed the show packaging and graphics for the Film Independent Spirit Awards, the annual ceremony that recognizes the best in independent film. As in previous years, the 2019 graphics built on the branding Pentagram created for Film Independent, the non-profit organization that produces the awards.
The Spirit Awards are held the day before the Academy Awards and presented in an oceanside tent in Santa Monica, all with a fun, free-wheeling atmosphere in contrast to the Oscars. The 2019 festivities were emceed by the actress, comedian and producer Aubrey Plaza, and the field of nominees and winners was more diverse than ever, with women dominating the Best Director category, Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel “If Beale Street Could Talk” taking Best Feature and Boots Riley’s “Sorry to Bother You” honored with Best First Feature. The Time’s Up and #MeToo movements had recently energized the film industry to be more inclusive and equitable, and this exciting sense of change could be felt at the ceremony.
Before the event, this bold spirit found its way into the design of the graphics, which hint at the heroic with dimensional typography that zooms through space. (The motif also playfully pokes at the dominance of comic book films in the mainstream, giving independent film its own superhero status.) Every year, the Pentagram designers face the challenge of how to reinvent the Film Independent identity in new and surprising ways, through type, color and movement, with past years’ approaches including type that stretches, flies and swirls. The 2019 graphics play with light, using it as a material to form dimensional typography.
The team created more than 20 different bumpers for the ceremony, including introductions and nominee packages for categories like Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Documentary Feature. In each animation, dimensional letterforms made of light project through the dark like images in a theater, moving in different ways as the typography is extruded, outlined, and plays with perspective and 2D/3D. The designers experimented with the different qualities of light––having it flicker, swing, dim and blast. In a nod to 3D, the palette is red and blue, the colors that are used to create the stereoscopic 3D effect in film.
In the animations, the designers worked carefully to make the light letterforms look strong but weightless, playing with the texture to make them luminous and reflective, but not shiny and plastic. Light is scattered and refracted within the surface of the letterforms to give them a viscous quality that feels like its own substance and material. The graphics look both retro and futuristic, evoking the vintage “coming attractions” titles used by local theater chains in the 70s and 80s but made with today’s technology and contemporary typography.
The graphics are built around the custom typeface Font Independent, which is used across all of Film Independent’s programming. As in previous years, the graphics were fully integrated into every aspect of the event––from the voting cards sent to Film Independent members, to the design of the set, tent graphics, tickets and programs, to the animations playing across screens and on the broadcast, to the promotional campaign––creating an immersive experience.
This was amplified by the set design, which extended the 3D look with a series of screens filled with ambient animations during the ceremony. The screens created virtual spaces that played with depth and perspective, transforming throughout the show by appearing to dimensionally expand and recede into space.