Good design criteria for tourist and traditional festival posters
Traditional and patron saint festivals have remained one of the most indisputable tourist attractions throughout the 20th century. Particularly in Spain, the international relevance of some of these events has boosted the popularity of the country, and has served to promote it as a tourist destination. In the Canary Islands, the large number of festivals that are celebrated and their direct relationship with tourism make these events, among other things, an important economic source for these islands.
The poster has long been the most widely used mean of broadcasting information throughout history, having evolved alongside changes in society and the technologies that have made it possible, and as a result of the need and demands for it. Although it currently coexists alongside more powerful forms of media, it refuses to disappear, since its ability to reinvent itself appears to be infinite. The poster is no longer just a piece of paper stuck to the wall that tries to attract our attention, but rather its support and materials have in fact grown. Now not only does it exist in physical form, but it can also appear in digital version, and develop or incorporate certain technological innovations.
The appearance of moving digital posters, or animated posters, as well as augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, interaction with the environment or participatory design, among other innovations applied to the poster, have incorporated the participation of various groups of professionals in the interest of them working in an interdisciplinary fashion in order to create and even co-create posters, since the public has progressed from being mere observers to co-creators, and at the same time active users who can interact with the poster itself. Furthermore, the Internet and social media have provided the poster today with a broadcasting power that casts its net further and wider than what could have ever been previously imagined.
Posters have always existed in the tourist industry as a mean of promoting any type of event or place, and indeed even for many traditional festivals, it has become a cornerstone for their development. Their function is no longer merely to inform or decorate, but now also incorporates other functions and objectives, be they social, environmental or cultural. For that matter, posters can become indispensable for some festivals or regions, since if they are well conceived and executed with technical precision, they can afford an air of prestige to an area or entity, and as a result, obtaining the most appropriate solution in each case becomes an essential task, so that posters can fulfil their mission in the most efficient and responsible way possible.
The theme of this research into the posters of tourist and traditional festivals, which is now coming to its end, began in 2014 with my final degree project in design. Its objective was to create a poster proposal and a full promotional campaign for the Fiestas de Mayo de Los Realejos, (a festival declared of National Tourist Interest), that would be meaningful and updated for the times in which we live. The results obtained from this paper were used by this municipality’s town hall as an image for its festivals in the year that followed. This experience has been of use to Dr. Alfonso Ruiz Rallo, who has since accompanied me throughout my research to date, and to myself, as a first approach to the issue of design management in public institutions.
Together we were able to establish that, year after year in the Canary Islands certain incidents that affect the poster designs were happening and in fact still do happen over and over again, which brought forward a series of questions that spurred us to continue researching in order to delve deeper into the topic of festival posters. In respect to reasons why, an obvious example is the lack of knowledge of design management from the staff of public institutions who take charge of these tasks, since this has resulted in proposals that were either poor quality, misfocused, or presented some kind of problem, be it ethical, environmental, etc. Furthermore, such proposals generally receive a barrage of criticism and comments from the locals in Tenerife once the festival posters have been presented to the public. These are some of the consequences that occur due to the fact that still, amongst the majority of the population in the Canary Islands, design is not viewed as a tool of innovation, nor as an investment, but rather as an expense and merely a matter of style.
As my final master’s dissertation progressed, it was determined that the theme of festival posters would be extended, which brought me to study three festivals of the Canary Islands in greater detail. Among these were the Carnivals of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, which is the only festival in the islands that has been declared of International Tourist Interest. With a more investigative approach than in previous research, a more in-depth analysis was proposed in relation to these three selected festivals, such as the evolution of the posters, the poster proposals that the public liked the most, forms of hiring, etc.
From the information gathered, a series of conclusions were reached, and the importance of producing good graphic work to advertise our festivals was finally recognised. Therefore, based on this analysis of my master’s dissertation, as well as from our own previous experience, it was confirmed that design management is either non-existent or insufficient across the town councils of the Canary Islands, and that currently little value is afforded to the practice of this profession.
Once the final master’s dissertation had been completed and defended, it was submitted to the Awards in Design Innovation focused on the tourism sector, which was organised by the Universities of Barcelona, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the Basque Country, and La Laguna, and also by the Arona City Council. The panel, which was made up of international and interdisciplinary professionals who had links to the tourism sector and the design industry, determined that given the novelty and usefulness of this research, it should receive the award in the contest of that year, a key fact that motivated both my tutor and I to continue working on the subject, since we could appreciate that it was not only of interest to the academic community, but also to public and private institutions.
This is how our doctoral thesis came to be, under joint supervision of the University of La Laguna (ULL) and the French University Savoie Mont Blanc (USMB), which served as an extension of the two previous bodies of research, in which the main aim was to establish a series of criteria for good design that could be applied to the posters of tourist and traditional festivals, taking as an example the most important and widely-attended festival of the Canary Islands – the Carnivals of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
In order to anticipate the possible results of the doctoral thesis research, the following hypotheses were formulated:
1. We can define a set of values for good design that are applicable in certain contexts
2. There is a way to define and measure a set of values in the posters that allows us to determine the quality of the design
3. Proper application of these values can improve design management
In other words, the values of good design ought to be incorporated into professional practice and in the community itself, as this is how the image of festivals can be improved, as well as how communication can be made more effective, and even more profitable. This would serve to reduce the volume of criticism and problems that could arise from poorly executed proposals.
Based on this, a set of objectives was determined: to analyse a series of posters from tourist and traditional festivals, their characteristics, and their criteria for good design, in order to improve the quality of posters of this subject published in the Canary Islands and in other areas; additionally, we set out to identify what impact the decisions made during the design process have on our environment, as well as to increase the value of design and its proper management, and ultimately attempt to contribute in a way that would serve to eradicate the bad practices that normally occur due to the fact that those responsible for the decision-making are not qualified to do so. To this effect, the objectives of the research were ordered as follows:
1. To determine a set of criteria for good design in relation to the posters
2. To carry out an analysis on a sample of posters from the Canary Islands (6 posters from the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival, from 2015 to 2020)
2.1. To analyse the design management and evolution of these six Carnival posters
2.2. To determine their criteria for good design In this research, both data collection and analysis of the posters were considered useful in disseminating and preserving part of the Canary Islands’ history, in that it served to add value to its festivals and help define its graphic advertising. As a result, another three points were added:
3. To increase historical and cultural awareness of the festivals and posters of the Canary Islands
4. To add value to design and to its proper management, and attempt to contribute with a view to eradicate bad practices
5. To provide a set of tools and knowledge in relation to the posters, both to the client and to the designer, so as to help them create or request a graphic design project according to each individual case
Phases of the research project
Once both sections were clarified, our work was organised and divided into three phases: research, development, and a final practical analysis phase, all of which were organised in time to meet the proposed submission date for completing the research.
In the first phase, it was deemed necessary to first define two key concepts: design and poster, since this research revolves around them. Such clarification was considered necessary due to the degree of complexity that the term design represents, as well as to explain the way in which a poster is understood in this research, for the purpose of properly applying the designated criteria for good design a posteriori.
Once the concept of the poster was defined, we began researching into its different genres and functions. In addition, a summary of its history and on the evolution of its management was produced, with an emphasis on bullfighting posters, tourist posters, and Spanish festivals, especially those found in the Canary Islands. Certain notable world events, artistic movements and indeed the tools and technologies with which the poster has evolved were also briefly presented, in addition to naming certain designers and their most relevant works, for the purpose of understanding within a global context the reason for which a poster was considered or is still considered good in each time and place. Once this was complete, a general set of principles for good design was defined, concluding that design should be honest, ethical and easy to use and understand. Based on these principles, along with a wide collection of testimonials from professionals in this sector, a set of criteria for good design was determined that would later be applied to the poster.
Thanks to the hospitality I received at USMB, with such conclusions I was able to carry out three projects related to the visual presentation of the results of this research, in collaboration with three students from the Master Création Numérique at the University. For this, a world of good design was created in virtual reality, which contained: an exhibit of animated posters created according to the concepts of good poster design, a wall with quotes on good design, a game in which the user must choose which one of two poster proposals is most appropriate, and also a short video in 360º introducing the space created in virtual reality, which represented the final project brought to life.
For the time being, virtual reality has been used to present the results of the research, though using it as a method of research in future work has also been suggested. With regards to this, it is worth pointing out that for the most part the information gathered for this research has been extracted through visual analysis of the posters and through bibliographic consultation, and due to the scarce amount of information available on the management of design and posters in the Canary Islands, it was also necessary to conduct a string of interviews with contemporary professionals in design.
With respect to the development phase, we presented a range of knowledge that the designer, client or design manager ought to possess, using the information gathered through the initial research, together with a set of tools that could help improve communication between them, such as a briefing model. This constitutes a useful document in terms of commissioning a design project, specifically the creation of a promotional festival poster in this case, so that the designer is able to carry out the work in accordance with the demands and needs of the client, as well as defend his or her proposal on the basis of what has been agreed.
On the other hand, we created a model for poster files that was able to collect data that could be easily used to share certain historical and cultural knowledge of both the festivals and the posters, most notably information that later, together with that of the briefing, could be useful in analysing and drawing conclusions that examine whether the selected sample of posters meets the criteria for good design as defined in the research, and that could, if necessary, help improve graphic advertising in public institutions in order to reach the desired outcomes.
As regards the last phase, six recent posters of the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival from 2015 to 2020 were used in order to implement the outcomes of this research, for which its criteria for good design was determined using the above-mentioned tools. From the analysis, it was concluded that the posters that were better managed or executed by professionals who worked in graphic design won more suitable proposals, both conceptually and technically, which brought a number of social, economic, and environmental advantages, thereby noticeably reducing the volume of criticism from the local inhabitants of Tenerife.
For this very reason, as is being done in other town councils and institutions, it is necessary to procure a management model until we can establish the most efficient formula for creativity and design, notably one that allows for good results and good communication, both in terms of client-to-designer and designer-to-the-public, in order to avoid hiring those who are not professionals in design, or relying on competitions open to the public, which are common practice in the Canary Islands and are promoted by public institutions, something that serves to threaten the professional integrity of graphic designers.
Therefore, this research defends the necessity to make the hiring process more professional in public institutions with respect to design and creativity. As a possible solution, we propose the provision of training courses, mainly to the staff of public institution to render them capable of using the information and tools provided in this research in an appropriate manner, so that they know how to best manage design or hire expert consultants to take charge of it, thus enabling us to climb progressively higher up the design ladder, whilst avoiding the great patent instability that currently exists in relation this matter throughout town halls and other government agencies in the Canary Islands.
Designing for public areas carries a great responsibility, and because of this, doing it wrong should not be an option. Therefore, it is necessary to look for the best options or good designs. The growing number of professionals trained in these subjects, the increase in the number of associations and teaching centres in design, and the growing interest of citizens in this area, among others, indicates that we are now headed in the right direction. The poster has not finished reinventing itself, nor surprising us, whether in physical or digital form. Just as society is constantly changing over time, we must keep ourselves up-to-date and search at all times and in all places for the best possible options and thus, the good designs.
For the purpose of routinely updating the contents of this research, this web page goodposterdesign.com has been created in order to present the results of this inquiry, and in particular to share the design tools that we have obtained, so that they are always available and can be consulted, updated and used by anyone at any time.