When your festival pass is a conversation starter
The NH7 Weekender is much more than just about raging musicians and loud cheers, it's as much about the booming sounds as it's about colourful backdrops, engaging stages, informative passes, maps, necessary signs and glitzy billboards to please promoters. Hassan M Kamal chats up with the man behind the designs at this cult festival
Every year, for months on hand, illustrator and visual artist Sameer Kulavoor works non-stop to give the Bacardi NH7 Weekender festival a unique visual identity — from designing the festival logo, the stage, the bar, the backdrop down to its posters, passes and badges. The intent is to ensure that visitors enjoy the venue as much as they enjoy the music.
“Each year, we try to capture the vibe of the festival and people participating in it,” says Kulavoor, adding, “The idea always is giving more than just a musical experience.” If 2011 had popular icons from across fields joining hands to catch a gig at the festival the 2012 edition saw plectrum-inspired designs, rule the festival.
This year, Kulavoor has planned something bigger by giving each stage a different face; yet keeping it in sync with the universal theme of the festival. “Each stage will have a bar section around 64ft x 4ft, covered with graphic and logos. Then the backdrop is designed according to what the stage represents. For example, The Dewarists' stage will have a Folk-inspired face to it,” he reveals.
How is it done?
Work starts as early as April, when Kulavoor brainstorms over a set number of ideas, and presents the best to the annual brainstorming meeting that happens ahead of the festival. Once the idea is approved, Kulavoor begins the design process — logos, stage backdrop, billboards, posters, passes, maps of the venue as well as merchandise including badges, bags and T-shirts. Once it’s completed, the designs are sent to the folks at NH7 for feedback. Post corrections and upgrades, his job is to convince all the brand managers, which is the most difficult part, he believes.
Ten days prior to the main event, Kulavoor gets the final structures that have to be filled with graphic works. But their role is more than just that. “Our role is not just to fix the areas with graphics, but also to get everyone aligned in the same direction. Each promoter wants his logo to be the biggest. The whole convincing part takes quite a while. As we have to also ensure that the festival doesn’t lose its visibility among all the big brands,” he adds.
Why the designs matter
“A festival without the right artwork and backdrop looks mechanical. If you look at the backstage you would find a lot of stuff that you don’t want people to see — unappealing bamboo stilts, busy-ugly looking wire, metal; the structure doesn’t look very appealing to the eye. The artwork covers all the ugliness to present a beautiful setup for the musicians,” he says. Kulavoor says that the artwork used in a festival works subconsciously in the mind of a visitor.
Besides, there are lots of spaces between gigs, and the artworks help fill that space with a visual entertainment. “More than often, it’s a conversation starter among strangers,” he signs off.