Mucho designs “evergreen” identity for Stern Grove Festival

The festival’s new eucalyptus-tree-inspired logo animates to become “a graphic equaliser device” that could play a role in live performances at future festivals.

Mucho has designed a new identity for San Francisco’s Stern Grove Festival, with a logo that serves as “a modern interpretation” of its home within a eucalyptus tree grove.

The festival was founded in 1938 and offers free concerts across ten Sundays throughout the summer. Its previous identity – created in 2005 – centred around “traditional hippy culture representation” and didn’t align with “more modern interpretations of music or motion graphics”, says Mucho partner and creative director Rob Duncan.

Stern Grove Festival’s new identity consists of a suite of a new logo, typeface, colour palettes and layouts. Duncan says the “evergreen” system can create “a holistic brand experience across, signage, printed and digital collateral, something that Stern Grove didn’t have before”. It was also designed to appeal to a variety of musicians – from the San Francisco Symphony to hip hop artists – and younger audiences as well as allowing for “different event experiences”, Duncan adds.

A simplified tree icon references the festival’s eucalyptus grove location and appears in a repeated circle pattern enclosing the wordmark. As well as being “a clean, modern interpretation” of the grove, Duncan says the circle arrangement was chosen to symbolise community.

Its previous logo was “loved by some older members of the family” but Mucho looked to ensure that the new logo and brand system “spoke towards the brand values of Stern Grove” so festival fans understood that it was changing for “very strategic reasons and not just for the sake of change”, says Duncan.

Mucho also considered how the logo should be easy to emboss, foil stamp and reduce in size but, most importantly, how it could “animate and come to life with music”, according to Duncan. He explains how the logo is used as “a graphic equaliser device” to announce the lineup of artists across the website and social media.

In the future, Duncan envisions that it could replace the material banners on stage and appear on digital screens, “reacting in real time with the artists and the music”.

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Housed within the icon is the festival’s new logotype, which uses GT Ultra Median. It was chosen for having “the same spiky attitude” as the tree icon and its “modern but natural” qualities that mimic tree trunks and leaves, says Duncan.

Stern Grove Festival’s main colour palette comprises dark green and off-white. Every year, a new illustrator will be commissioned to create the festival’s artwork as well as a secondary colour palette. The simple, natural primary colours were chosen to ensure “consistency over time” while allowing “the creativity of the illustrator to flourish”, says Duncan.

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Australian artist and illustrator Karan Singh was commissioned for the 2023 festival illustrations. Duncan describes his work as “a little bit hippy, retro and psychedelic” but simultaneously “new and modern”.

Mucho was confident that he would be able to “build elements of the outdoors into the illustrations while representing each musical artist at the same time”, says Duncan.

“Clever taglines” and long copy elements look to emphasize the longevity and history of the festival, highlighting how Stern Grove existed before “many other historic musical events that the city is remembered for”, says Duncan.

The fact that the festival is free to attend was not clear enough in the previous identity, so Mucho sought to give prominence to the word “free” whenever possible, according to Duncan. Despite it being free, the new identity seeks to position Stern Grove as a “world-class” event by providing “a much more professional experience for the artists as well as the audience”, says Duncan.

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