Established in 1999, the Maryland Film Festival is an annual five-day international film festival celebrated each May in Baltimore, MD, and has grown to be one of the more notorious small film festivals. In 2017, the festival took place for the first time in its new permanent home, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway (SNF Parkway for short, Parkway for shorter), which was built in 1915 as a movie theater, survived more than 100 years, and recently restored by Ziger/Snead Architects. Aside from hosting the festival each year, the theater serves for year-round programming as the home of the newly formed parent organization, MdFF, which, even though it is still short for Maryland Film Festival is meant to stand independent of the festival. The new identity for MdFF, the 2017 festival, and the environmental graphics for Parkway have been designed by local firm Post Typography.
Three distinct screen-like shapes represent the Parkway’s three theaters, MdFF’s three main arms, and the diverse perspectives of filmmakers and audiences.
We renamed the parent organization MdFF to distinguish it from the annual festival. To make the acronym more unique, we represented “Maryland” with a lowercase “d.” A family of unique marks differentiates each arm of the organization. This flexible system is designed to accommodate future MdFF-branded projects.
Although the Maryland Film Festival has been around for 20 years, I did mark this entry as “New” to acknowledge the introduction of the parent organization and this being the first time that there is an institutional branding effort for the festival and all the entities around it. The core concept of the three screen ratios serving as the foundation for a flexible set of logos is not the most earthshakingly exciting but it’s appropriate and yields a dynamic combination of abstract shapes. I’m not sure how many people will see any of the logos and think “Oh, yes, those are screen ratios”, especially as they are all distorted, but they do hint at some sort of interplay between different things. The combination of the hard angles of the rectangles and rounded sans serif is awkward as it makes the icons and wordmarks feel different from each other. The “MdFF” wordmark is kind of interesting with the two different “F”s that, in its horizontal version are a bit of a head-scratcher but when stacked it makes more sense and even makes me like the horizontal version. Overall, as individual logos these aren’t the greatest but as a system they do their job in establishing a connection as well as a slight separation between three (and potentially more) entities.
Like other festivals, this one has had different looks over the years — the ones since 2014 designed by Post Typography — but 2017 will probably serve as the turning point towards a more cohesive approach for future years, in a similar way to SXSW. The applications for the 2017 festival took the color palette of the new logos to the extreme with a very colorful and dynamic representation of the new building with the diagonal lines emanating from its silhouette serving as a striking design element to repeat across materials.
We emphasized the intentionality of the building’s bold architecture with an equally unconventional white-on-white sign that wraps around the corner of the new building. This sign has already become a recognizable landmark on one of Baltimore’s most prominent corners. At night, the white-on-white signage glows with subtly shifting colors.
Our environmental design for MdFF’s SNF Parkway accents the theater’s stunning architecture and showcases the graphic identity’s flexibility.
The project gets extra awesome with the environmental graphics for the Parkway, starting with the tone-on-tone exterior sign that lights up beautifully at night with a subtle, colorful, real-life drop-shadow. I love how they split the name taking advantage of occupying a corner spot. Inside, the attention to detail continues at every turn with a great use of dimension and materials that contrast with the aged patina of the building.
I love how they went directly on the walls with signage and adapted the funky rectangles to the twists and turns of the building. The combination of the hard angles and soft (and thin now) rounded sans serif still bothers me a little but that last picture tho.
Overall, this is a great effort that spans a pretty ambitious range of applications, from institutional identity to environmental graphics and everything comes together in a confident, lively personality for the festival, the parent organization, and the venue.