Fight Club

Mercurial pair behind Warriors Studio and Graphic Design Festival Scotland Beth Wilson and James Gilchrist talks us through its rapid ascent from graduation to international event organising and invite you to take part in this year's GDFS identity...

673b797c 3889 48ba ad70 3fabd3b54269

Could you give us a little background on GDFS and your role as Warriors Studio?
We met at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) where we both studied graphic design. We quickly became pals through our similar and ridiculous sense of humour, love of partying and shared taste in design aesthetics. Having opposites strengths and interests in the design process, we were working unofficially behind the scenes and quickly realised that our projects were stronger when we worked together.

In our final year (2014) at university, we developed the concept of Graphic Design Festival Scotland. We were really excited by design events such as Chaumont Design Graphique (France), Graphic Design Festival Breda (Netherlands) and After School Club (Germany) and we couldn’t believe that there was nothing like this in Scotland.  

We dreamt, named, branded, organised and publicised GDFS throughout our final year at ECA. We asked our favourite design studios from across the world to be involved, we sold tickets to anyone who would buy them, coerced partners into providing beer, paper and printing and suddenly realised, “fuck, this is actually going to happen”. GDFS became our final year project, alongside other live design work which we produced under the name of Warriors Studio. In January 2014, we were both wondering what to do post-graduation, but by May 2014 we had a design festival, a design studio and were full steam ahead.

Large 90905d55 ec10 45ac 9d82 7a1da782398d

As Warriors Studio, we work locally and internationally with clients including Warner Music, Urban Outfitters, ICON Magazine, TEDx, V&A and the British Council but have also had the pleasure of working on a number of personal projects.

GDFS is a large project within Warriors Studio which takes ten months to curate, design, organise, publicise, manage and enjoy. Victoria Donnelly, a recent graduate of ECA is our newest Warrior and works predominantly on GDFS.

Since launching GDFS we've welcomed more than 20,000 participants, attendees and visitors to our events, with the 2015 programme completely selling out. We can proudly say it's the largest event ever hosted at Scotland’s National Centre for Design and Architecture, The Lighthouse.

The international reach of the festival also astounds us. Twenty-six percent of core programme participants also travel from around the world, from places including New York, Japan, Beirut, Israel, Norway, Sweden, Germany, The Netherlands, France, Italy and Spain.

Large 9aa6c21f fa98 4ff8 8c38 eb342247eb23

Large 534f97bf e424 48d4 a344 b00a818c88a1

Tell us about the collaborations behind the identity for this year’s GDFS identity…
Our approach has been to work with a different design studio each year on the identity for GDFS to keep the festival fresh and progressive. This year we will work closely with Glasgow design studio Freytag Anderson and Infinite Eye were brought on board to take care of the development of the new site.

As Greig Anderson of Freytag Anderson points out, the new identity for this year’s festival "explores the process and dialogue which unfolds as ideas are developed and visualised, captured in real time collaboration". We are very aware of designers’ tendencies to present polished, resolved work all of the time, but the journey and process are equally as important and can also be equally as interesting.

For us, this identity is about the journey as opposed to the destination. We wanted to create something which is more than a functional identification tool for the festival, but something which is living, evolving and can represent the raw energy and creativity that the festival provides.

Large a62ed7f7 0e0d 4f7e a7fc 82d64779580d

We started with fifteen poster compositions designed by ourselves Warriors Studio and our friends at Freytag Anderson. As an extension of this collaborative process, we are inviting designers to participate and create their own 2016 poster. We have provided the source files of the poster for everyone to work with.

Designers can read the brief and guidelines, download the files, design their own posters and when complete they can upload it to be included in the gallery. All posters submitted will be considered for inclusion in the final print run, and could be shown online, before, during and after the October festival.

The aesthetic not only includes the documentation of the process but also visually encapsulates it — leaving the grid lines visible throughout reiterates that we are showing the inner workings, while also providing us with a consistent structure to hang information from. The grid lines sit among the disorder of chopped images, raw screenshots and discarded typography giving a sense of organised chaos. We were keen to establish a consistency across the range of materials  so they were all clearly GDFS 2016 related but still allow each composition to feel individually crafted and striking. The colour palette, typography and visible grid help to align all the various applications.

By clashing and all of these components together we also have a level of friction – an important part of our creative process as we attempt to align our visions and direction.

There’s something about the posters that feels as if you’re peering into the inner workings of a computer, or a machine or even catching a brief glimpse into one of our brains. We were keen that they didn’t feel overly technical and ‘generated’ however, so there are lots of organic hand drawn / sprayed / natural image making elements in there as well offering an interesting juxtaposition between digital and analogue work.

Large 605cd8c3 4819 4af1 94c6 9325d155f510

What do you hope to see from work submitted in the open-source element of the identity development?
We hope that designers will download the source files and interpret them intuitively to create new and interesting posters that they are proud of and which represent GDFS. And we want to see work which we wouldn’t create ourselves.

Why is dialogue and collaboration so important to what you do, both as the festival and as Warriors?
Our entire lives revolve around collaboration and the dialogue is the on-going narrative which unfolds alongside this. Collaboration is the central pillar of both Warriors and GDFS— internally within the studio, the approach we take with our clients and suppliers, how we develop work through personal projects. GDFS is one big collaboration between us, our partners, friends, family and everybody within the programme. Everybody is working together to create a unique and personal experience.

It looks like a massive amount of energy goes into GDFS - what are the headlines about what we can expect from the atmosphere and content of this year’s event?
2016 marks the most ambitious programme for Graphic Design Festival Scotland to date!. There will be fifteen workshops led by incredible designers from across the world, two conferences, two panel discussions, three exhibitions, an international poster competition, a live project with twelve of the top studios in Scotland, an evening of short films in collaboration with Pretend Lovers, a party with 12th Isle and special guests, plenty to drink and a soundtrack of music across seven days. It’s going to be an inspiring and action-packed week.

To participate in the GDFS 2016 identity and design your own poster, find out more about the brief, specs and downloads here. 

Graphic Design Festival Scotland takes place 17 – 23 October 2016 at The Lighthouse in Glasgow. Buy tickets here.