Meet: Max and GiselleMax Parkes and Giselle Reid are the graphic designers at Unit Design, responsible for translating the festival into tangible, visual content, “for the look and feel of the whole thing”. Max has been involved from the very beginning; Giselle came officially on board this year. What follows is an interview in their shared office space in the eastend of Hastings.
HBAF: What does your role as graphic designers entail, beyond sitting at a computer and arranging pictures and fonts?
Max: It starts off with that meeting we had earlier on in the year, talking about how to communicate the festival this year, what the theme is, how we might get that across in the broadest terms.
There’s an art to festivals. To tell an ongoing story, they need to reinvent themselves to some extent each year.
So at the beginning it’s considering what the narrative is going to consist of, which is partly what the shows are, teasing out some dominant threads and what Pitsch feels he’d like to communicate.
HBAF: So you start working on that narrative arc, how to tell it, and then what also comes into play are the images provided, and the limitations of that material.
Giselle: It’s pretty hard work to get what you need, to get high-res shots.
You wouldn’t know, from the end result, how hard it is to get beautiful images.
It often means ringing round last minute, trying to get something. We get there, it’s just like pulling hen’s teeth, that’s all.
Max: Pulling together the catalogue is a big job, there’s so much detail in it; it’s basically the festival in a nutshell months and months before the festival happens. So everything has to be accurate. It’s a big team effort, there are a lot of moving parts, a lot of proofing.
HBAF: Along with the catelogue, you also have to put together a whole raft of promotional materials.
Max: Oh yeah, there’s a long list— flags, cars, ads, Facebook, Mailchimp, and on it goes really, billboards, hero images for all sorts of people, posters, site signange…
Giselle: You think of how much it takes to promote one show and this is promoting zillions of shows all at once. But by the time the festival happens it does have quite a good profile. You’d have to be living under a rock to miss it.
HBAF: How would you characterise this year’s festival?
Max: Pitsch always chooses shows that represent different points of views and potentially challenging points of view, but challenging in a good way. I think that’s been more clearly identified this year, and that’s interesting, there are a lot more Polynesian shows, for example. I believe that’s a strength of the festival, where it does something useful by challenging people in the best way and presenting different points of view. I’m looking forward to seeing how that plays out.
There are lots of quite challenging topics this year. It’s quite a brave programme. Though there's still something for everyone. Giselle
Max: The good thing with art is, generally speaking, it puts difficult content in such an approachable context, it opens things up for conversation. And I think that’s what Pitsch and the team want, those conversations.
Giselle’s festival picks
I always look forward to what’s on offer for families and children. And I’m looking forward to having one-on-one Mummy-daughter dates with both my daughters, with their own specifically chosen shows. My youngest (8) is learning the ukelele so I’m going to take her to The Nukes; my eldest (11) I’m taking to Ann-droid. I’m really looking forward to both of them. It’s good to have the excuse to take kids.
What I decided to do at the beginning is I’m going to different shows with different people – it’s sort of like my little present to them. So for my mother-in-law I chose Songs for Nobodies, it’s one that I thought we’d both enjoy and enjoy together. One each for the children and then a date night with my husband – we’re going to Greg Johnson.
Max’s festival picks
I’m excited for White Night – it went so well last year, great to see so many people out on the street. And I’m really looking forward to seeing Champa’s piece, Meta, in that. I saw a little preview and I thought it was fantastic. Songs for Ivor Cutler with Greg Malcolm – I’m really interested to see what the hell that is about. It’s going to be possibly quite odd, it will be off the wall, but it’s great to go and try some of that stuff. I’ve had good success with going to things that are surprising.
I’m going to go to Delaney – so many people said that Delaney Davidson was great last time that I really can’t ignore that. And of course Margot and Kurt. And Pango – I’m really keen to see that as well.
The other thing I’ve had good success with is asking Pitsch what I should go to. One year he said I should go to Triumphs and Other Alternatives and I would never have gone to that, but from the first second that started I was completely entranced, it was just amazing, I had no idea! And I would never have picked it out of the programme. So I’m going to ask him for a few recommendations.