Dodge Poetry Festival

Festival Design

In 2014, The Dodge Foundation wanted a new direction for their bi-annual poetry festival, which draws over 150,000 people to hear spoken word and poetry over three days. The largest poetry event in North America, the Dodge Poetry Festival brings together some of the most celebrated and diverse poets and artists. The festival moved from rural Waterloo, NJ, to urban Newark, NJ, in 2010, and the staff wanted the vibrancy of the city and the energy of the event to be reflected in the design. The creative brief was clear -- no quills, no calligraphy, no books. What made the Dodge Poetry Festival special was the exuberance and joy from the poets and the crowd. The design had to show this, and it had to be flexible to accommodate posters of various sizes, mailing collateral, web ads, merchandise, signage and advertising. Moreover, it had to be something that could be updated every other year as the festival is bi-annual, but still feel like the same event.
Old posters for the festival had a museum-like quality that was not in keeping with the excitement of the event. The organizers wanted to turn this look on its head.
The 2014 redesign was a bold and colorful interpretation of the diverse voices at the festival. More of the 2014 materials can be seen on the specific project page.
The main illustration was designed to be broken apart and reassembled as needed for different sizing proportions and uses. It was imperative that the illustrations also work with photos of previous festivals to showcase the crowds and famous poets.
The campaign ran in NJ Transit trains.
In 2016, Kerstin was tasked to design the festival again. This time, the message was similar: Keep the vibrancy and boldness of the previous design, but re-imagine it for a new year. Kerstin chose to use the same basic typography and color palette, but created a set of flexible illustrations that would give a whole new feel to the festival. (See more here.)
The design used small motifs and patterns that could be distributed throughout the materials in clever and surprising ways.
The campaign ran in NJ Transit again.
In 2018, the team sat down and brainstormed some new thematic ideas, always with the same directive to keep it fun and bold. As they turned around ideas of how they could incorporate Newark's unique location in the design, someone looked at a map on the wall and said maybe that could be an inspiration. Kerstin took the idea of mapping and ran with it, building a colorful illustration that was both a rough map of Newark's downtown and a rich mosaic representing the voices of different spoken word artists. Chunks of the illustration could be moved and combined to create space for messaging and photos. (More can be seen here.)
The campaign on the NJ Transit train and platform
The stacked typography was pulled out to create simple merch that can be used for future festivals as well.