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Melbourne International Jazz Festival

An arts festival brand that’s perfectly in tune

1 December 2017

A festival made for serious aficionados, the Melbourne International Jazz Festival is jazz done right. Every care is taken to program intelligent yet accessible work, in settings that showcase the best of Melbourne.

While the festival has a close following of fans from the tight-knit local jazz community, it’s also operating in an increasingly cluttered cultural landscape. It seems like every new arts niche instantly has an accompanying festival. Another issue facing festivals is appearing fresh and distinctive every year to attract new audiences, while reassuring loyal audience members that they can expect more of what they enjoy.

This challenge is met in different ways by festivals, many of whom adopt radically different branding each year. Liquorice partnered with the Melbourne Jazz Festival since 2012 — meaning that rather than reinventing the wheel each year, we can build on the work that’s gone before to take it to entirely new places.

2017 was a very special year for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival. It was their 20th anniversary and, as such, we felt it was time to break with tradition and take the MIJF identity in a new direction.

Looking at ways to symbolise 20 years of jazz, we created an icosahedron: an intriguing shape with 20 faces. To take the concept a little further, we looked to traditional (and not-so-traditional) anniversary gifts for inspiration. Reflecting MIJF’s penchant for celebrating both the old and the new, we combined materials of porcelain and platinum to create the final form.

The decision to use yellow was an important one. Returning punters would be familiar with the MIJF palette of blues and pinks and a departure such as this was not without its risks. Would we invigorate or alienate? We took a chance and it paid off. The final product is both anomalous and yet undeniably jazz. Like the festival itself, it appeals to the established jazz fans while piquing the curiosity of newcomers.

2016 was another big year. While the previous three festivals (2013-2015) dealt with various aspects of live jazz (the audience, the player and the language), in 2016, it was time to focus on the sound.

Of course, the idea of seeing sound was a tantalising brief for our designers. Initial concepts centred around a waveform, which could be used across the marketing campaign. Inspiration came from footage of the jazz greats playing live. The challenge was to turn all of this energy into a design.

Early concepts for the waveform were formed from the peaks and troughs that were generated by using actual music. Even the ‘smoothest’ of songs created a huge amount of information and produced surprisingly jagged landscapes. Looking for more control over the appearance of the waveform, we built our tool to create custom forms to suit the artist and level of complexity of the music.

A festival setting is a unique way to experience music, and we wanted the finished design to reflect the unique nature of live music. Using the tool, hundreds of unique waveforms were created and used right across the marketing materials for the festival.

Our development team built a tool which allowed us to have complete control over the appearance of the wave graphics. We carefully crafted each wave and then output a file for use in print or for animation on the web.

Once the designers began to realise this shifting and flowing sound landscape, the digital team tapped in to give the concept movement as well as developing an all important tool to generate different waveforms in a spectrum of different styles and complexities.

Of the process, lead designer Andrew Fiscalini says: “The animated waveform came much later in the development and branding. It was more of a golden opportunity than something that we set out to accomplish. The animated wave completed the circle for the viewer and changed their original perception of the printed pieces.”

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While the technical challenge was fun for the team, the success of the design was really rooted in the trust we had from the Festival. Managing Director, Scott Bonnano, reflects: “The idea of ‘free reign’ to design anything only comes after the client is able to place a great deal of trust in the agency. We’ve worked with MIJF for a number of years now. Initially, like with any client, we had to work hard to sell our ideas, but now our creative process is more collaborative.”

I have such respect for the amount of time & consideration that goes into each year’s campaign. It’s no coincidence that since Liquorice became our design partners, the festival has been experiencing the most substantial growth in awareness and attendance growth in its history.

Jennifer Kerr — General Manager at MIJF

2015 festival posters
2014 festival mini-program
2013 festival volunteer t-shirt and program

You could be tempted to draw some type of parallel between the unconscious perfection of the free flow of jazz and the collaborative nature of the ongoing client relationship, but that sounds very convenient.

If you'd like to explore how we can partner with your brand, get in touch.


Brand Strategy

Creative Direction

Brand Identity




Design: Andrew Fiscalini

Account Management: Gabby Howard, Jim Yencken

Web Development: Jonathon Bellew, Olivia Keegan, Michelle Chan, Vivian Genato

Animation: Brian Henry Design

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