Established in 1940, the Minneapolis Aquatennial is the official, annual civic celebration of the City of Minneapolis taking place on the third week of July. Originally created to celebrate the city’s lakes, rivers, and streams, the Aquatennial has changed over the years to include everything from sand castle building to a triathlon with one constant: fireworks on the last night. For its 75th anniversary the Aquattenial introduced a new identity by local firm Zeus Jones.
Because the festival wanted to focus on being a celebration of downtown Minneapolis, we looked to local symbols of civic pride to bring it to life. The logo represents the Stone Arch Bridge, the Mississippi River, the fireworks show and l’etoile du nord, which is Minnesota’s state motto. Together, the images make up an “A” for Aquatennial. The wordmark matches the logo with the rounded A’s, and some quirkiness was added with a few unconventional tweaks to the letterforms.
Logos have come and gone for the Aquatennial but a common recent version is the one shown on the opening graphic and to state it needed a redesign was an understatement. I’ve seen better-looking graphics on grocery store coupons. Replacing the generic graphic, the new logo is more referential to the city, depicting the iconic Stone Arch Bridge and the Mississippi River that runs through it. It’s a charming, iconic graphic that has been paired with a nice, custom wordmark with a matching aesthetic. The logo works great with the icon or wordmark on their own, both becoming easily recognizable as identifiers for the event.
We also designed a series simple, colorful, and bold illustrations that captured the feeling of summer in Minneapolis with water, fireworks, food, music, and local architectural elements. The illustration needed to adapt to different applications, so we designed everything based off an underlying grid. That way the elements can be chopped up, restructured, and will still fit together like puzzle pieces.
The illustration system is a good idea and it does work but the illustration itself lacks some refinement and consistency, especially if it’s meant to be the cornerstone of the applications. (Maybe they would consider hiring Siggi Eggertsson next year, since his style matches the logo quite nicely).
In application, the logo, illustration, and typography all work in harmony. Everything is well done, balanced, and the color palette is vivid without being annoying. Overall, a major improvement from years past (and that’s only based on seeing the before logo which indicates that very little good design could have come out of it) and hopefully the springboard for a new legacy of good-looking applications for the next 75 years.