What do resin totems have to do with the Leeds International Festival of Ideas? Rabbithole explains
Leeds International Festival of Ideas (LIFI) is an annual event that unites thinkers, writers, creatives, and knowledgeable experts across diverse domains, such as science, technology, politics, and culture. Since its inception in 2017, the festival has firmly established itself as a prominent fixture in the city’s cultural calendar, renowned for its ability to present intellectually stimulating ideas from across the globe. Rabbithole, long-term collaborators and fellow Leeds residents, returned to create another captivating identity for the 2023 version. This time, featuring abstract 3D totems and playful type, Rabbithole’s identity encapsulates the festival’s commitment to creative exchange and lively discourse.
For the creative direction of LIFI23, the design studio collaborated with Frankfurt-based 3D artist (and good friend) Joseph Töreki. Together, they embarked on a playful exploration of how abstract resin shapes could be interconnected to create a visually intriguing representation of the festival’s spirit. “We’ve worked with Joseph for a few years now, so have built up a good understanding of each other,” Creative Director Tim Dee tells us. “The process always starts with a lot of play. We have a basic idea or what we want to try and achieve, but we’re very open to the process taking on its own life.”
After numerous rounds of sketches, experiments and iterations, the concept of totems emerged as the most enticing option. “Individuals tend to gravitate toward like-minded people, which can inadvertently lead to the formation of echo chambers, fostering tribalism and an ‘us versus them’ mentality,” Dee explains. “The festival’s core philosophy has always been centred around promoting a wide range of viewpoints from various communities by bringing them together on the stage. The totems symbolise these principles, highlighting our belief in the power of discourse to construct something greater. The end result has a sense of balance, where every segment of the stack plays a crucial role in maintaining the structural integrity. All voices are important to build a better future.”
While the totem stacks, an assemblage of captivating and colourful rock-like forms, are an exciting feature for 2023, the brand mark and colour palette are unchanged, providing distinct visual elements that make LIFI easily recognisable and memorable.
The brand mark – set in Monument Grotesk by Dinamo – is an abstract depiction of the acronym, LIFI, and incorporates a switch element, representing the foundational ethos of the festival: the coexistence of different perspectives. Its honest, unrefined, and idiosyncratic shapes add a sense of rawness to the overall character without overpowering the design. Elsewhere, the text treatment – according to Dee – was a perfect blend of “practicality and poetry.” From a practical standpoint, the curved text provided a forgiving format to accommodate the various lengths of titles and speaker names. Simultaneously, its playful fluidity accurately reflected the dynamic nature of debate and discussion within the festival.
The 2023 edition retains the iconic pink of the festival (from the previous identity, designed in 2019) maintaining consistency year on year. Originally chosen to provide a distinct separation from other cultural events in the Leeds calendar, the pink has since held sentimental value for both the team and the festival’s audience.