How the Bestival 2016 poster was created

Artist Charles Williams designed the futuristic-themed promotional material for Bestival 2016, inspired by the city from Blade Runner.

Bestival poster

The poster built on the already established image of Bestival

Josie da Bank, the creative director of Bestival, had seen a magazine cover I worked on last year for Stuff magazine and felt I understood the festival visually. In the past the branding had been done in-house and she wanted to see what someone else could bring to the table.

Bestival specified that it had to use its logo design, because although it wanted to push the design, it didn't want to let go of what it had already established too much. The brief was pretty open. It asked me to present some ideas on this year's theme, which is 'the future'.

First, I thought it would be good to do something that was closely aligned with the piece of work the client referenced – the Stuff cover. I created a few ideas in that style (type made from ribbons that flowed across the page) and used an isometric grid to give it a structured 3D feel.

Other ideas included type with a liquid feel, a 3D version of their logo and a series of floating islands, which was similar to what we ended up going with but more rudimentary. The initial ideas were very loose, kind of terrible drawings!

Josie and the team really fell in love with this idea of a metropolis made using the Bestival logo. I'm quite a big fan of sci-fi, especially Blade Runner, so I associate ideas of the future with dystopias and utopias visually. I think that's why they picked me: my work generally has quite a futuristic resonance.

01. The initial ideas

Bestival poster

The design was created with an isometric grid

I came up with three ideas: one featuring ribbon type, a 3D version of the logo with floating islands, and type in a liquid style. Often I'll print out an isometric grid very faintly on the paper (in blue so it's easy to remove in Photoshop), then sketch on top of that. I try to get everything worked out on paper beforehand.

02. Detailed sketches

Bestival poster

It's important to stick within the right dimensions

I made more detailed sketches and switched to the poster format. Once I extruded the logo onto a 3D plane, there was a hurdle: it was all much taller than Bestival was used to. I met with Josie Da Bank to discuss how we could add other elements to the space, so it would be the right dimensions for mobile and online.

03. Adding elements

Bestival poster

Isolated details were sent over for reference

I sent over each component on a separate page so the team could see what I was creating in detail. I referenced the heritage of the festival, using a heart and a peace sign that had been part of their branding before. This stage also helped me decide which parts I would need to build individually.

04. Moving to illustrator

Bestival poster

The Bestival logo lead the design of the poster

When Bestival had signed off the layout, I started building the design in Illustrator. I worked with an isometric grid similar to when I was sketching, with all the line work created using a Wacom pen. I wanted to work on the logo first then use any established rules to dictate the lines, spacing and stylistic details of the whole piece.

05. Experimenting with colour

Bestival poster

Different colourways reflect different times of the day

In terms of colour, Bestival was keen to see what I would come up with rather than being prescriptive. I put together five different colourways: a daytime scheme that graduated from day to night, two lots of abstract colours, and a night scheme using neons. The client picked the night scheme for the main creative.

06. Adding shade

Bestival poster

The poster was given an artificially hand-finished touch

After adding colour in Illustrator with the Live Paint tool, I added bitmap shading in Photoshop. It gives everything a more analogue feel – otherwise work can start looking a little bit too clean and digital. I really like the less polished edge and the extra texture draws people in because it makes them question how it's made.

07. Finishing touches

Bestival poster

A neon touch amplifies the colours

The last stage was to fine tune everything and amplify the colours.
 I also wanted to add some glow to the neon lights to give the impression that they were glowing in the dark.
 I did this in Photoshop using a soft faint brush and the Colour Dodge layer setting. The final step was to send the design to the animator to bring to life.

This article was originally published in Computer Arts magazine issue 253. Buy it here.


Manchester-raised, London-born illustrator Charles Williams runs one-man illustration and type studio Made Up. With a surreal 3D aesthetic, he’s worked for some huge brands (Nike, Adidas, Google, BBC, VW) and also works on editorial projects for the likes of GQ, the New Yorker and Wired.