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A Rebranding That Updates the Circus for the 21st Century

One student’s excellent graphic-design scheme gives us hope that circuses might have life yet.

A Rebranding That Updates the Circus for the 21st Century

No one goes to the circus anymore. We watch cable news instead. But maybe some clever branding could change that. Enter Nathan Godding, a graphic design student at Academy of Art University in San Francisco, who’s come up with an excellent little graphic scheme for The Sensational Circus Spectacular.

The Sensational Circus Spectacular is a fake big top Godding dreamed up for an assignment on branding an event. He envisioned a marriage between Barnum & Bailey and Cirque Du Soleil, between the 19th century and the 21st — “a circus that is true to its roots yet targeted at a contemporary audience,” he tells us — then built a visual identity around it.

The result is a mix of antiquated type crossed with bold strips of technicolor — what you might’ve gotten had P. T. Barnum been something of an acid freak. It’s electric. Everything, from the tickets and the popcorn buckets to the outdoor ads and the website, manages to look both fresh and old-timey, which is exactly what you want for a modern-day circus. Think: If the visual identity were too off-beat and “contemporary,” you’d lose the whole context of a circus. If it were too nostalgic, it’d just convey the message that there’s nothing new to see here. Godding’s scheme is a deft bargaining of the past with the present.

Obviously, the whole thing’s purely hypothetical and we won’t get to enjoy the Sensational Circus Spectacular’s assorted carnival rides and illusionists and calliope concerts (and, of course, its lovely graphic design) anytime soon. But it could push others in the circus industry to rethink how they market themselves. And it’s always nice to see someone turning his attention to freak shows other than the ones hanging out in the Fox News greenroom.

[Hat tip to The Dieline; images courtesy of Nathan Godding]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.

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