Responses by Greg Hahn, owner, Gretel
Background: We were asked to investigate the core values of Stefanie Nelson Dancegroup (SND) and help determine how the dance group wanted to present SND as they moved into their 20th anniversary. We needed to help reflect those core values artistically to the highest design standards in the publicity materials. Our objective was to increase SND’s presence in the New York City arts world.
Reasoning: The goal was to mimic movement and dance through the design in a way that felt personal and specific to SND. By creating a graphic library of forms that represented the edgy, contemporary and energetic nature of the pieces, we were able to visualize the spirit of the rebrand. Combined with typography that also mimicked the sense of movement and flow of the works, the identity allows for a range of unique compositions that feels ownable and flexible to the dance group.
Challenges: Connecting the dots between the dance company, SND, and the highly successful dance program, Dance Italia. From the beginning, we were conscious of creating a secondary language for Dance Italia, with a different tone of voice, but also shared DNA with SND.
Favorite details: I like quirk in design—anything that might make me stop on the street to take a second look. But there needs to be meaning behind every decision to create a lasting identity. The identity is successful on all fronts, using arresting imagery that is directly tied to what SND does and who they are. We’re also proud to support local culture in New York City.
Visual influences: We were looking at the notebooks of dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham. He drew a lot, and some of his drawings capture the path of a dancer as seen from above through a series of loose squiggles. The simplicity of the concept was good, so we pushed that thought through the lens of SND’s body of work, their thoughts about movement and form.
We’re also attracted to tensions within a brand. Something that was clear in speaking with Stefanie and seeing the company was the tension between elegance and awkwardness in her work: quiet meditations and explosive movements; symmetry and asymmetry; hard and soft forms. Using a combination of hard and soft shapes that echo the dancers’ movements, we created a language of shapes, which form the basis of the identity. The shapes work to supplement and enhance, but on their own, they become a cryptic language of glyphs, unique because they’re based on SND performers.
Anything new: While we’ve had exposure to large-scale projects, we also love working on projects with smaller teams, allowing us to dig into design and work directly with the founder. Stefanie was the only person we dealt with throughout the process. While this isn’t new to us, working with SND renewed our commitment to partner with cultural clients as well as larger corporate clients.