Established in 1981 by actor Robert Redford, the Sundance Institute is a “nonprofit organization dedicated to the discovery and development of independent artists and audiences” that “seeks to discover, support, and inspire independent film and theatre artists” and is most well known for its annual Sundance Film Festival. Through its programs that cover everything from feature films to documentaries to short films, Sundance supports screenwriters, directors, and producers to develop original, independent projects. Yesterday, the Institute introduced a new logo and identity designed by Pentagram partner Paula Scher.
Our new look and logo position Sundance Institute as the overarching brand for all of our programs and activities, including the Sundance Film Festival. Created by Paula Scher of Pentagram, it is designed to represent the Institute as a contemporary and kinetic cultural organization.
[A] flexible identity system that can be customized for the Institute’s many programs and initiatives. Bold, iconic and memorable, the identity is based around the simple form of a bright yellow circle, a play on the Institute’s name. Scher has also designed the graphic identity for the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
The previous logo was perfectly decent with its fuzzy circle (probably a pain in the ass to reproduce well) and centered and well-spaced typography. It could have probably stayed like that forever and no one would have complained. The new logo breaks the complacency of its predecessor with a new execution that demands more attention as it definitely doesn’t recede softly into the background. The egg-yolk-yellow, fuzzy circle has been replaced by a bright yellow, unfuzzy circle with flush-left, lowercase Trade Gothic sticking out of it. It helps give the Institute a slight edgy feeling and bring back some of the eff-you-Hollywood attitude of its origins but visually it isn’t particularly pleasant to look at, especially with that poor “institute” wording that didn’t seem to deserve the same care in letterspacing as the main name and its positioning makes sense in the main logo but once you get into the alternate lock-ups it just looks like it got misplaced by mistake. The introduction of logo variants doesn’t feel so well resolved or even necessary.
In keeping with the kinetic nature of the Institute, the circles of the identity can be used to form series and patterns, as well as shapes, images and gradations. In communications like brochures and the website, the identity can be combined with stills from thousands of films and plays supported by Sundance, or photographs of the Institute’s beautiful Utah locale.
In application there is a lot — A LOT — of circles. And it can get tiring, specially with the overly-gridded and geometric approach which doesn’t let the system break much of a boundary. It’s only when things go asymmetric or more organic that the system starts to come to life and represent more of an independent spirit as in the invitation above and the sunrise/sunset pattern (which unfortunately is used too small in applications and you can’t really appreciate the detail). The use of Trade Gothic helps give everything a good hipster vibe but it all feels like it needed one extra push in daringness — which we get a little bit in the identity for the 2014 Sundance Film Festival (seen below). Overall, the identity is just drowning in too many circles and circle motifs — once it can break from that, I think it has the right ingredients to be a contemporary, edgy representation for Sundance.