Applause All Round: The Sundance Film Festival Rebrand



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6 min


10 May, 2023

The Sundance Film Festival, which was first celebrated in 1985, has become the largest independent film festival in the United States.

Held annually in Utah every January, the festival receives thousands of submissions, but only about a hundred are chosen to be showcased.

The festival is organised by the nonprofit, Sundance Institute, and is known as a premier gathering for original storytellers and those who seek fresh perspectives.

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Over the years, the festival has launched numerous films into the mainstream, including titles such as Reservoir Dogs, An Inconvenient Truth, and Little Miss Sunshine.

After hosting a virtual-only event for the past two years, the festival returned in-person last January and unveiled a new brand identity by Porto Rocha, a Brooklyn-based design firm.

”Compositions take inspiration from the seriality of film strip cells, referencing the shape of the logo to tell stories of their own; and anchored in the language of filmmaking, motion behaviors seamlessly support footage and guide audiences through the brand universe.” – Porto Rocha Project Page

Sundance old and new logo on grey background
Credit to Under Consideration

An obvious, but effective logo choice

Since it started, Sundance has created a new identity for the festival each year with the design often centred around circles based on the Sundance Institute’s logo.

Circles for a brand with the word ‘sun’ in it is not the most daring choice so it’s refreshing to see that they’ve done something different this time round!

For the first time, the new logo breaks the mold and moves away from the typical circle theme, instead opting for a film strip and a 16:9 ratio.

Whilst this might seem too obvious and a little on the lazy side, it’s hard to argue at its effectiveness which we’re delving further into below.

The 16-by-9 rectangle with rounded corners is a bold and straightforward design that provides an understated base for Monument Grotesk, a deadpan sans serif font from Dinamo.
Sundance film strip on black background
Credit to Under Consideration

Flexibility at the core

When the logo is isolated, it’s not the most exciting emblem but it does work very well across a range of devices.

Seems as though we all consume content through a variety of different screens (with a variety of different sizes) having this flexibility embedded into the new design is key.

The simplicity of the logo and the fact it consists of only two colours also allows it to work well with any other content that is placed around or behind it.

Take a look at the example above where the logo is nestled in the centre of the images without causing too much distraction. It looks comfortable and appropriate, allowing the other images to take centre stage.

Seeing it in this film-strip format is very visually pleasing and evokes memories of old school moviemaking. There’s a real sense of nostalgia and the whole effect is very striking and cinematic.

Whilst some might say the latest design from Porto Rocha is too obvious, you can’t argue that the finished result is effective.
Sundance logo on pink and red background
Credit to Under Consideration

Vibrant marketing materials

I wanted to talk about the marketing materials in this rebrand as I think they’re really visually engaging.

Whilst the logo is very simple and showcases only a black and white colour palette, much of the marketing collateral has a beautiful colour gradient.

Whether it’s lime green and blue or bright pink and red, there’s a lovely contrast between the type-heavy logo and the rainbow of colours used alongside it.

Again, this supports the flexibility of the logo as it works so well in a range of applications fitting seamlessly into different designs.
pink, black, and green venue signage banners for Sundance
Credit to Under Consideration

Building out the film-strip concept

The film-strip approach is central to this rebrand and we can already see the part it plays in the visual assets above.

When it comes to advertising and venue signage, this concept is even more prevalent as each sign looks like an endless strip extended across the whole surface area.

What I also love in particular about the signage is how the logo blends in with other venue information. By setting all of the text in the same typeface at the same size, it’s difficult to distinguish the logo from the general information.

Whilst this might be confusing to some, I think it creates a nice visual language and ties all elements together. The usual approach is to have the logo set aside quite distinctively, but The Sundance Film Festival goes against the norm and I think it works.

Applause All Round: The Sundance Film Festival Rebrand

Whilst I’ll be the first to admit that this rebrand is not the most creative in terms of pushing the design boundaries, it does work effectively across a range of applications.

The updated logo appears much more modern and is particularly fitting for the film industry, even if it is a little predictable.

The use of a film-strip motif may seem like a cliché, but it is well-suited for various festival assets and visually embodies what the festival is all about.

When you take the simplicity of the logo and pair it with the colour gradient, you create an appealing and eye-catching combination that is sure to capture people’s interest.

At Canny, we love diving into rebranding projects to analyse what worked and what didn’t. We’ve partnered with lots of brands across a range of sectors to transform their brand identity to better connect with their customers. To find out more about how we can help you, get in touch.

Hi, I'm Amy, Content Strategist at Canny. In my day-to-day role, I'm responsible for creating content that gets you noticed and makes you stand out from the competition. Naturally, I love writing and creating engaging copy that brings your brand to life.

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