12th March 2019

Forming a Group Identity

Victoria Maitland.Forming a sense of identity is one of the most challenging aspects of teenage life – even more so in today’s digital world where the online/offline identity struggle is amplified and broadcast for the world to see. As part of the Engage! Young Arts Producers Festival in a Day programme we facilitated a session in which a group of young people, all at slightly different stages of forming their own sense of identity, had to work together to decide on the identity of their festival.

For the session, we invited Darren Leader, branding expert, designer, and associate lecturer at Norwich University of Arts. Darren started the session by talking the group through the basic principles of branding, before asking them the basic question behind all brand identities: Who are we? The Young Arts Professionals worked in small groups to come up with single sentence mission statements describing their festival identity:

"We are ordinary young people who use language to provoke conversation: to us, the festival is about the exchange of ideas and dialogue in order to find common ground through the power of words, art, and literature."

With this mission statement complete, Darren asked the group to begin visualising this using elements on their festival name (Handover). He encouraged them to move away from illustration – literal representations of hands or books – and to move towards graphics and typography – for example, chevrons to suggest the concept of movement, or lettering containing hidden words and symbols. Soon the group had amassed a huge range of different ideas which shared the same common ground. These ideas were to become the building blocks for Darren’s design brief.

After lunch, Darren asked the group to begin thinking about promotional materials. He gave them examples of his own work and asked them to gravitate towards those they found most compelling. Once they’d narrowed down his selection into three key concepts (a poster-zine, a two-sided flyer, and a postcard/book mark), they began to mock up their own versions, playing on the branding ideas they’d created in the morning session.

By the end of the session we were surrounded by designs they’d created. Even those members of the group who were the least artistically minded (self-confessed!) had drawn or collaged something unique and interesting. Darren left with a head full of ideas and a design brief to create the final brand identity of the festival. Our Young Arts Professionals left with realised vision of their festival identity – its aims, audience and what it means to them.

Two weeks later, Darren returned to pitch his designs. He explained the narrative behind each and it was great to see how rooted his options were with their original doodles from the day. We then facilitated an anonymous voting session – each participant raising their hand for their favourite and second favourite design until we had two finalists, so as not to feel pressured to vote in line with their peers. We had a discussion about the merits and drawbacks of both designs and over the next couple of days, we’re going to send back our final comments to Darren for development. It’s brilliant to see how the group of disparate and varied personalities have coalesced into one festival team.