Leeds 2023 – Identity and Typeface by Lee Goater

Leeds has commissioned a new Leeds 2023 Typeface and Brand Identity to support its bid for the European Capital of Culture title in 2023, and they call none other than Lee Goater, known for his work across cultural organisations including the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Leeds West Indian Carnival, Leeds International Film Festival, and his international exhibition Faces Lx which premiered in his home city before touring to Barcelona’s Mitte Gallery in 2015.

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Lee brought together a collaborative team of leading creative practitioners to create a visual identity that communicates the core values of ambition, experimentation, collaboration, and openness. A bold but tipical move fro Lee. He is used to do thing like this. The team includes Leeds College of Art graduates and rising stars Hungry Sandwich Club, digital and content strategists Head Offfice™, spearheaded by Gaz Battersby, and Alex Finney, a recent graphic design graduate from Leeds College of Art.

Lee said: “What appealed to me in the brief was that it was all about creating an identity that belongs to everyone and can work at a community level as well as at an international scale. The values at the heart of this project made it necessary to at the city with a new outlook. We wanted to create a solution that reflected how we felt about Culture. It needed to be playful, intriguing and somehow even challenging. We wanted to make something that makes you turn your head, pause to figure it out and understand it.”

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Based around primary shapes and simple geometry, a bespoke logotype and typeface was initially developed to suggest connections between the diverse cultural organisations, communities and audiences involved. The design solution set out to promote intrigue and curiosity leading to understanding and reward. Extensive testing with different accessibility groups helped to inform the design decisions to ensure that the experimental visual identity remained inclusive.

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Lee also worked with London-based typography studio Dalton Maag, who created the typeface for the Rio 2016 Olympics. Tom Foley, Creative Director at Dalton Maag said: “The basis of the identity is built around a new Typeface for the city and we needed to make sure that it was legible whilst retaining the playful nature of the characters. We were tasked with taking the conceptual letter forms created for the pitch and developing them into a European language typeface, including language variations and character sets. We’re really happy with the final Typeface which we’ve pushed to retain the intrigue and curiosity whilst making it legible for all groups.”
The Leeds 2023 Typeface will become an open source font, presenting new opportunities for the bid to connect with a range of different audiences and challenging the city’s design community to craft a new story around the city’s cultural offerings.

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