La Villette

In Paris, Parc de La Villette is treasured for its unique combination of wide-open spaces and cultural events. It holds exhibitions and concerts, hosts circuses and street theatre. Within its grounds are a music museum and a world famous science museum (the CitΓ© des Sciences).

It needed an identity system that would show off all of its activities to their utmost, but leave the viewer in no doubt that these were taking place at La Villette. As we explored visual solutions we were drawn to ideas that functioned as ‘frames' and ‘edges' to posters, ideas that would take 10% of the real estate yet leave the other 90% to the event.

For twenty years, the park had used a green triangle as their logo, and we proposed that they retain the triangle but incorporate it into a bar that could run on the left, right or bottom of a poster. Strong typography and memorable images were also highly recommended.

Here’s a typical example: a circus troupe becomes an anarchic collage of lamppost-trees leaning at improbable angles. And below, for their famous outdoor film festival, a ‘twister’ of film twirling the event details into the air.

The park liked our proposals, and suggested that as we developed the design manual, we design a few of the early posters to help bed the scheme down. That was the beginning of an eight-year relationship that saw us design hundreds of items from leaflets and posters, to banners and TV commercials.

We discovered that here was a client who was prepared to take a visual risk, who was interested in ideas that sat ‘on the edge' (in fact they used a special word for this that cropped up often in briefings: ‘dΓ©callΓ©'). After a couple of years we were able to clarify their verbal as well as their visual brand (as a ‘Jardin des Cultures') and a whole series of grass objects and symbols were the result.

Once the scheme had established itself, we were able to experiment with the bar device (using stars and skies, as above), but the principles of the typography, images and slightly offset angles remained.

Even when taking part in group events where quieter branding was required, the established visual style still carried through - here are two posters from a puppet biennale at which La Villette was a co-host.

Our relationship eventually ended in 2007. But in that eight-year stretch, we had proved to them (and to ourselves) that a cultural identity could be controlled, yet flexible, all at the same time. As a swansong, here’s a film that we produced for them to show off their wares, which was aired in French cinemas.