It took 110 concepts to create this poster

Austrian-based agency Zwupp tells us how an unplanned and unnerving amount of concepts for the Forward Festival 2017's visual identity led to an exhibition of all 110.


Sorting through over 100 different concept designs to find just one is guaranteed hard work, but it’s what happened to graphic design studio Zwupp during the creative process behind its visual identity for Forward Festival

The Austrian-based agency was in charge of the festival creativity, design and communication in 2016, and was given the responsibility for the festival visual identity in 2017. This included type design and layout eventually inspired by Vienna visual artists Koloman Moser and Josef Hoffmann - who ran the famous Wiener Werkstatte (Vienna’s Workshops) - which produced ceramics, furniture and graphic arts.

Forward Festival will be held in Vienna, Munich and Zurich throughout April and June. It focuses on creativity, design and communications with talks this year held by industry greats such as Stefan Sagmeister from Sagmeister & Walsh, typographer Erik Spiekermann and creative agency Snask. There’s still tickets, so head to the website for more information.

Image: The chosen visual identity by Zwupp for the festival.

But the craziest part of Zwupp's creative process is the sheer amount of poster designs produced by the in-house team (self-described "pumpkin heads") – 110 in total. And from that, only one was chosen as the final identity. 

We asked why they would take on such a task. Stefan Joch of the Zwupp team says it wasn’t planned. 

"Actually, it was kind of a mistake we recognised after the final process. First we thought, fuck, we’re pretty big idiots making so many different styles," he says. 

"But then we decided to play around with that mistake and show them in addition to the final design."

Image: One of Zwupp's visual concepts for Forward Festival 2017


So from the binge of designs came an idea – use the posters in an exhibition where everyone can experience how new ideas are born.

"There are two ways, either the idea is ready in five minutes and the best one ever, or it’s another addition to the gallery of dismissed," says Zwupp's Andreas Putz. 

"We were struggling for a couple of months, unsatisfied with the drafts, nervous to reach last year's design-level and of the final deadline which sits in your neck like the biggest elephant. 

"In this case it was weird because we’ve been the censor to our own design, the asshole that says no to so many drafts. We kind of worked months just for the bin –  but we decided to spill it out and show this mess." 

Image: One of Zwupp's visual concepts for Forward Festival 2017

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The Zwupp team started working on the design process a few months before deadline, but after each draft, the team thought they could push the design a little further – the design being hugely inspired by Wiener Werkstätte.

"We’ve done a lot of research on Wiener Werkstätte layouts during the last year and came to the decision to overload every format with type in the back which is a constant in the system," says Zwupp's Michael Wittmann.

Image: One of Zwupp's visual concepts for Forward Festival 2017


"The last decision was to directly work with the 2017 theme the birth of an idea in an illustrative way, because we just couldn’t give up the initial idea of doing something illustrative. So with 109 designs already in the bin and one more day to go, we created the last and final illustration (as seen in this image) and ended up with two visual layers - the typography with its clear purpose of communicating information and then the illustrative one, which plays in an abstract way with sexuality and the German word – herumwurschteln - which means "to fiddle around"."


In retrospect, Andreas says one of the reasons why the studio produced so many designs was a rather open briefing. 

"It sounds great at first and probably it's the best thing ever when you can decide which direction and communication the design should go. As an asset, there was only the 2016 design we wanted to overthrow and do something completely different, as well as Wiener Werkstätte [acting as] as source of inspiration and golden thread." 

Image: One of Zwupp's visual concepts for Forward Festival 2017

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"In 2016 we played a lot with those textile patterns from Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser. The final design was very abstract, but the functionality was given. This year we thought something illustrated would be nice. But in the end we realised it was a decision that gave us headaches, bad nights and hangovers…but also the opportunity to fail - which we did - and learn from it," says Andreas.

Image: One of Zwupp's visual concepts for Forward Festival 2017


The creative process began in July last year but now all the posters can be seen in an exhibition showing at the three Forward Festivals.

The gallery is aptly titled Gallery of Dismissed, and it provides design tips and insights into the process of creation. It’s dedicated to the "fun and pain of creative work".

Image: One of Zwupp's visual concepts for Forward Festival 2017


Image: One of Zwupp's visual concepts for Forward Festival 2017

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Image: One of Zwupp's visual concepts for Forward Festival 2017