Song and Dance Celebration design bridges the gap between tradition and modernity

According to its creator Mart Anderson, the design of this year’s Song and Dance Celebration consists of four main elements – typography, colours, ornamentation and Estonian graphic art. The use of the latter is, in the designer’s opinion, a unique opportunity to bring works that are otherwise hidden in the depths of art halls or even in museum storerooms to the attention of many people at once. It is Anderson’s way of thanking his teachers.

Tell us about the overall identity – what was your starting point in creating it? In terms of its colours and vigour, it’s very different from recent editions. How did it come about?

Mart Anderson: For the first time in a while, we don’t have a specific logo. Since the name of the event is so long, it was logical to solve it typographically. The font itself is my creation. The original inspiration came from a sweet shop sign from Tartu in the 1930s. It had been sitting as a working project for a while and when the Song and Dance Celebration competition came up, I thought I would try to use it here. I added some extras – the letters communicate with each other like dancing, one takes a step forward, the other one steps back, a dialogue is created. In addition, there’s the motif of the celebration’s motto, “Holy is the Land”, where the earth is a mound under the letter “o” and the vocal on top of that is the sound that occurs under the singing arch. The different combinations of letters also have the effect of people in the procession and under the singing arch.”

The ornamentation you use on the different design elements is at first glance just a more fashionable stylized archaic pattern. What’s behind it?

MA: “The ornament is actually a pattern with a code that conveys the sequence number of the celebration. The number 13 has been deconstructed into the shape of the Roman X and III and the patterns are formed from these.”

The colours of the designs are bold and youthful. Why did you choose this approach?

MA: “As our folk costumes of singers and dancers are colourful, there are basically two ways to stand out against this background. One way is that you’re monochromatic, so unassuming that you have white text on a black background or black text on a white background. The other way is to turn it up a notch. That means you’re even more colourful than the whole bunch put together. That’s how an even more colourful world was chosen to stand out. The colours here are deliberately chosen to have meaning – midnight blue, dawn pink, sea green, cornflower blue, crimson green, plum purple. So as not to be the primary colours of a grocery ad. It’s a celebration for young people after all, and you don’t need a grey sweatshirt to go out harvesting potatoes. It’s a summer youth celebration! At the same time, I’m not doing some “pioneer camp” that’s all-in-one uniform colour! You can choose to have a patterned shirt, a logo shirt, a yellow, purple or pink sweatshirt. If you really don’t dare to wear colours, go for the navy-blue sweatshirt!”

If we look at the way young people are dressing nowadays, these strong colours seem to be something else?

MA: “Yes, pale and pastel colours are in fashion now. But we need to create some kind of trend, not follow behind. Our challenge is to be a bit bolder.”

The fourth element is Estonian classical graphics, which are much more conservative in nature and choice than the other design elements. How did it come into the picture?

MA: “The question arose, what will happen with the colours when using on a picture. Since I’m a fan of Günther Reindorff, I have digital images of a very large part of his work. I experimented with adding colour filters to his work. The Foundation came up with the idea of using Kaljo Põllu’s works, so I suggested that why not expand the circle of authors even further and use this unique opportunity to bring these works out of the museum repositories and close to very many people at once. So, a dozen Estonian graphic artists from different eras were selected, and their works now illustrate score books of songs, dance patterns and folk music for different types of choirs. I didn’t want to take these graphics one by one, because they would look old-fashioned now. I had to find a more contemporary approach and I did that through colouring and framing. Each booklet uses a coloured work by one artist on the cover and enlarged details of that work inside. The graphic artists represented are Maara Vint, Viive Tolli, Kaljo Põllu, Günther Reindorff, Eduard Rüga, Eduard Wiiralt, Kristjan Raud, Ilse Leetaru, Nikolai Triik, Eduard Hoffmann and Andrus Johani. The selection of works is based on the motto of the celebration, “Holy is the Land” – still a little bit pathos and devotion.”

The language of these largely pre-war prints contrasts quite sharply with the modern, youthful typeface and colour palette.

MA: “I have to take into account that there are traditions at the celebration. There are 150 years of tradition at the foundation this youth celebration too. And this concept of bridges also means that the past and the present are linked, that you have to take the past into account and you can’t just act out. But there’s no point in repeating this black and brown world all the time, we’ve passed a century in the meantime. I was a bit provocative for a noble purpose – framing the images, colouring them, using ornamental stripes between and beside them.”

What was the most challenging part of creating this concept?

MA: “The complication is that we actually have two very different celebrations. Pärt Uusberg said himself that he was a nerd in school and he’s doing this kind of inward-looking and solemn song festival. But at the same time the dance festival is very expressive. We have a kind of umbrella called ‘Holy is the Land’, but underneath it there are two events with completely different concepts. When our colour palette is so rich, it can be made into something so beautiful, but it can also be used in a more relaxed way. It gives opportunities to develop different approaches.”