Now in its sixth consecutive year, the BCBF Visual Identity Workshop gives a young artist chosen from among those selected for the Illustrators Exhibition an opportunity to develop the visual universe for the next Bologna Children’s Book Fair in co-production with Chialab Design, the design practice entrusted with the trade show’s visual identity.
This is the story of how the Chialab working group guided Sólin Sekkur towards the creation of what was to be the Bologna Children’s Book Fair visual identity for 2022.
The BCBF Visual Identity Workshop is a collaborative process to build BCBF 2022’s visual identity together with an illustrator from the Illustrators Exhibition. This was the sixth workshop, the third during the pandemic, and the first to be held completely online. So, video calls to people in different time zones, comparing work on whiteboards and exchanging notes and comments on digital files, followed up by constant revisions. With this BCBF Visual Identity Workshop we in fact experimented a whole new way of group collaboration, moving from traditional team work condensed into an intense week in residence in Bologna to a multitude of short online meetings spread over a much longer period.
Perhaps our research was prompted by a certain despondency over social distancing and the need to find something that would touch us profoundly; something that would evoke a state of mind, capture a mood, and reveal a personality. Who, we asked ourselves, could dream up special characters complete with first and last names to lead the parade at the 2022 Bologna Children's Book Fair?
This is exactly what we found in Sòlin Sekur's illustrations: puffy clouds, vibrant portraits, an underlying surrealism that sometimes bursts though the surface; characters whose simplicity of form reveals profound sentiments and emotions.
Diego accepted the challenge and we immediately started working. Portraits and close-ups seemed the ideal "format".
Although we were struck and fascinated by Sòlin's initial work, we had doubts about how they would realistically fit into the BCBF context. We had imagined something more light-hearted, joyful and - why not - ironic than his sombre Mexican Santa Muerte, the cult of souls, his characters’ estranged gaze and the all-enveloping grey atmosphere... But we decided to go along with Sòlin's spontaneity.
After a few minor chromatic adjustments, we showed the BCBF team this daring new approach to the Bologna Children's Book Fair narrative tinged with introspection, a sense of absence and loneliness - sentiments that in this particular period strike a chord with many.
The BCBF team’s reaction was what we expected: there was a mismatch with the emotions stirred by the figures we presented and the yearning to return to the festive in-person event that is BCBF… a reaction compounded by the fragile times we live in. So, we decided to start all over again.
Sòlin was unphased. After calmly giving his view, he set to work with a will and a great sense of collaboration. His attitude reminded us of Joshef Albers who said that the more discerning of us, those who acknowledge that facts are relative and that there is no single visual solution are able to change their minds and adopt other approaches; importantly, Albers noted, these are the people who with time will become more accurate and more tolerant.
Sòlin quickly surprised us with his new set of colourful, phantasmagorical characters. Could the BCBF visual image be a party or a parade where everyone brings an idea and a gift? Half-length portraits evolved into full-length figures; the focus on the characters’ gaze shifted to how they moved and what they were doing, and the close-ups of faces changed to become a joyful parade of different characters.
The slogan Children's Content Rocks! Join the party followed. It expresses a wish and a promise. But as with all parties, containing the guest list became a must. We chose six - not many for a real party but enough for our socially constrained times! Olmo, Xico, Pacha, Libri, Kef, the couple Lotta and Vitta, and Nimbo. Each guest brings a present, has a story to tell, and an exceptional way of taking us into his/her world.
Here is the line-up of our parade. We look forward to seeing the rest of you on 21 March in Bologna.