Based in Toronto on the territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinaabe, the Haudenosaunee and the Huron-Wendat nations, imagineNATIVE is the world’s largest presenter of Indigenous screen content. Its annual film festival attracts local, national and international attention and its institute in downtown Toronto houses year-round professional development programs, events and talks for Indigenous screen and digital content creators.
The film festival itself is a distinguished and celebrated event. It attracts people from around the world and has become an annual community gathering. The words “see you at imagineNATIVE” are often spoken amongst those in the Indigenous screen and digital content creator community.
Understanding the Challenge
In 2019, imagineNATIVE celebrated its 20th anniversary and decided to refresh its brand in honour of this important milestone. The organization wanted a brand that re-established its vision, mission and values, while also paying respect to its existing logo, which had been designed by renowned Canadian First Nations artist Kent Monkman.
Finding the Concept
There were a number of interlocking layers to consider before we could delve into conceptualizing this project. First, imagineNATIVE has a strong cultural presence and we needed to ensure that our chosen direction remained respectful and inclusive to everyone within its community. Secondly, we needed to reflect the ‘cool factor’ of the film festival.
To ensure we checked all the boxes, we took a collaborative approach to this exercise by consulting with multiple stakeholders and experts. We met with the client to discuss their needs, views and desires for the brand, then partnered with an Indigenous artist to gain her perspective. We also studied the brands of similar film festivals to gain a better understanding of the landscape. But with all this research, we found ourselves overwhelmed by the details and an incorrect assumption that we needed to please everyone at once; our desire to be respectful of Indigenous cultures led us down a road of feeling that the brand needed to include every culture.
And so, we met again with the imagineNATIVE team to gain a clearer understanding of their perspectives and desires for the brand. This helped us understand that the brand needed to reflect celebration.
We then re-examined the original logo and decided the brand needed an evolution, not a complete re-design. We evolved the imagineNATIVE brand into the digital space by making minor adjustments to the logo, including transforming its film reel into a fast forward button, updating the typography and creating a suite of icons reminiscent of video games and other aspects of today’s digital world. We also updated the colour palette to red, green and blue—the colours of so-called green screens used in film production.
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What happened next?
With great fanfare, imagineNATIVE launched its new brand at the 2019 film festival in October, and they are excited to see where it will take them in the coming decade.
Tips for great branding work
1) Understand your client’s needs. If a client asks for a rebrand, make sure you understand why. Oftentimes, there’s a lot about the current brand that can be brought forward and what you really need to do is evolve the brand, rather than start from scratch.
2) Ask for clarification. If after your client consultations you don’t feel like your team is creatively going in the right direction, don’t be afraid to ask your client more questions. You need to be confident in your understanding of your client’s needs when you launch into brainstorming.