NewsNow was the Principal Partner of 2019's Folkestone Book Festival. As part of our sponsorship of the event, I led the production of brand materials, both physical and digital, to showcase NewsNow's product and values to event-goers.
This project included designing print advertisements for the event brochures and helping to develop and install Raspberry-Pi-powered video kiosks throughout the venue which displayed a rolling feed of live headlines, interspersed with a promotional video. I also wrote, produced, and edited the video, which was shown on the main stage before each talk.
The Folkestone Book Festival hosted readings and interviews with local authors. The theme of the festival was “The Shape of Things to Come”. Amid Brexit, climate change protests, and other divisive and prominent political and cultural shifts of the time (even pre-pandemic!), this theme aligned well with NewsNow’s long-standing mission to encourage people to read widely and develop informed understandings of important issues.
NewsNow’s partnership with the festival was implemented via an array of digital kiosks placed around the festival venue, displaying a bespoke Vue.js web app that showed the latest news headlines and imagery on a variety of topics, directly from our API, running on Raspberry Pis.
In addition to this, we were offered the opportunity to display a short promotional film, both in the main auditorium before each event, and intermittently on our kiosks.
The overall goals for the event, aside from the overarching social purpose to support the local creative industry in Folkestone, were to develop and elevate NewsNow's brand identity and stimulate public awareness of NewsNow as a brand, and its values of media plurality and supporting public-interest journalism. This was set to be achieved though production and deployment of high quality brand materials.
My role throughout the event was distributed as follows:
- Design, development, and overall implementation of the kiosk app, working closely with the company directors and the development team, and as the sole designer
- Aiding in technical and practical aspects of the A/V installation, from display panel technology specifications to prototype setups, to testing various mini-PC devices to run the kiosks, to the physical installation of our Raspberry Pi units on location
- Working alongside the COO, with various merchandise suppliers to manage our promotional merchandise for the event, supplying print-ready design files and quality control
- Writing, storyboarding, editing, and audio engineering and composition for the short film, in a collaborative process with the directors and editorial team
- Design for a full-page print ad to run in the festival programme
This was a great project for me as it gave me a rare opportunity to use my diverse skill-set in a professional capacity. That said, it was not without challenges to overcome.
The biggest challenge was the short film. Through our early concept meetings where various team members developed draft scripts, I presented a concept that leant heavily into the divisive political climate of the time. Given that NewsNow's brand identity is based in rationality, impartialism, and advocating media plurality, it can be difficult to position the brand in a way that really makes a strong statement. My solution to this was to harness inflammatory political issues, illustrate their extreme polarisation, and present NewsNow as an antidote to these binary extremes. This included coining the slogan "There's more than one way to see things".
The team decided to run with my script by a unanimous vote. The concept behind the piece is that of unity in the face of adversity. In a time when people seem most divided, and when polarisation appears to trump rational discourse, it’s important for us to recognise each other as human beings; to be understanding, and to take the time to appreciate nuance, complexity, and even chaos. By taking the time to see the world through the eyes of others, we can learn to appreciate those who see things differently, rather than reject them. This concept is not only something that I am personally passionate about, but it is representative of NewsNow’s fundamental purpose.
Initially, we had planned to outsource the production to a video agency, but when deliberating over early storyboards and mockups, we collectively decided we weren't satisfied with the direction they were taking, and after some deliberation over our in-house capabilities, I put myself forward to produce the film.
I had to produce the film within an extremely tight timeframe in the lead-up to the festival, whilst also balancing my work on the Vue.js kiosk design and build, print merchandise designs, and AV setup. Given these constraints, shooting our own footage was not an option, so we had to rely on editorial and stock footage. This meant hours upon hours of scouring Getty, iStock, and Shutterstock, to find footage that would complement the script without looking too obviously like stock footage. In addition, the film would run most of the time on our on-site kiosks, which would not have audio. This meant that while the script was written with the intent for it to be narrated, we instead had to trim it down and use synced captions.
With no narrator, the music became a crucial factor for the occasions when the film would be projected on stage with audio, and sourcing royalty free music that could effectively fit the progression of the script was near impossible. With 15+ years of music production under my belt, I ended up taking this on too! I took a rhythmic piece of stock music, added a chord progression and some additional percussion, bass, and effects, and evolved the piece to reflect the tone of our narrative.
Beyond the film, the print advertisement I designed for the festival brochure was a highlight for me. I enjoyed the refreshing opportunity to work for print, which is something I've not had much opportunity to do in the past. Using the strapline from the video; "There's more than one way to see things", I designed a kind of visual puzzle. The core of the design is a 3D isometric shape, which would appear as a different 2D shape when viewed head-on from any one axis. This is a very literal, yet subtle, visualization of the core message, and I designed it in such a way that it would work harmoniously with the branding of the festival.
In the end, I turned around the entire film, sourcing footage, editing, writing, syncing captions, and producing the music, all within a couple of weeks. I also did this whilst balancing my other responsibilities in web development, design, and consulting on the audio-visual setup.
The film was well-received at the festival, both by the organisers and the attendees. Classes of children, attending the festival on school trips, applauded in the auditorium at the end of the film, and it has since been a linchpin in subsequent discussions about NewsNow’s ethos and brand identity.
Having said that, I definitely felt the time-pinch, and I would have loved to have done things slightly differently. While I came up with the initial concept, I did also work closely with senior management during production to accommodate their feedback and contribuitions in my work, and while this would have been great with more time, the time constraints made it difficult to reconcile some ideas effectively. I also would have liked to spent more time on post production, colour correction, frame interpolation, and narration, which would have yielded a much more polished end product.
Overall, the event was a great success. As a team, we had successfully created a set of reusable assets, skills, and processes with which to approach future events, and had developed a stronger brand identity both internally and in the eyes of event attendees.