Riverrun International Film Festival

For the past four years, I have volunteered with the Riverrun International Film Festival held in Winston-Salem. Every year, the festival has a different and fresh graphic identity. During the entire duration of my volunteering experience, Elephant in the Room has been the studio that provided the graphic branding. I quickly grew to excitedly anticipate the coming year’s theme. The 2019 festival did not disappoint. I was walking around downtown one day when I spotted the first signs of the festival’s arrival. Walls and storefront windows were plastered with large posters. I then noticed stacks of pamphlets and film guides that were stacked on tables in coffee shops and local establishments. As the days passed, ads also appeared on front pages of local publications. I saw how the theme adapted to different locations and purposes. This “wild” design was actually wild and impossible to ignore.

Smaller poster outside a theater

Film guide given to festival attendees










It is all about color and motion. There is a flashy energy to it, a hypnotic pattern reminiscent of a classic optical illusion. It feels very current, especially with each pattern being encased in a box with words carefully arranged at the top to form a clean grid that contrasts the psychedelic chaos below. The bright, bold colors were a welcome sight around town. It encouraged excitement for the coming spring season as much as the coming festival.

Newsprint version of the film guide, found on tables around town

Although I loved the designs, some people I talked to thought that the designs were too simple and boring, responding with, “That’s it?” Interestingly, the largest versions of the posters, that were only displayed outside did contain an element not seen in any of the other versions of the branding. On these, there were different words hidden within each pattern; words such as “explore” or “engage,” though since they could only be seen on a few posters I can’t remember (which speaks to its effectiveness). The letters were formed by the slight offset of surrounding lines so that it reminded me of a Magic Eye.  I would have liked to see them explore this concept more, especially considering it tied in the theme of the festival. There was a clear visual identity running throughout all the materials, but not a clear conceptual meaning to attach it to. I was left to assume that the theme was about feelings one gets when viewing films, but maybe that was intentionally left open for interpretation. What do you think?

Discussion — One Response

  • Jeanine Hasty 04/30/2019 on 12:43 AM

    Hello Kathryn! Very interesting poster design you picked to analyze. I totally agree that there is a flashy energy to this poster that is trying to almost hypnotize you. I think that this is why the creators chose to do this to make this poster eye catching to people walking by on the street. I looked over the festivals website and I saw that they also have the same hypnotizing patterns on their website. I really liked how you explored their other poster design that has other words embedded in the picture as well as what that would do to the viewer. Thanks for sharing!

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