That was some day. Saturday saw my town-wide Bedford Happy artwork unfold, pretty much as planned. The artwork took the form of a series of interventions across the town, based on what people had said made them happy, and designed to act as both reminders of that happiness – and generators of new happiness. It was all designed to be real-world viral, to start people talking and wondering, as well as being big on social media.
To make that work, I had to play with branding, with the idea of making something very recognisable that could be applied in different ways across a town to spread a message.
So the Bedford Happy brand design was very simple – three colours and the beautiful Canter typeface by Christopher J Lee. Under it were some simple principles – always positive, talking about happiness and not about what made people unhappy; celebrate local distinctiveness; keep it nimble, light and responsive. There were two styles as well – Be Happy (pictured here) and the fuller Bedford Happy.
The first phase, designed to use during workshops and while having a conversation with a town, used a 1950s-inspired palette, based on photographs of buildings around the town centre, for the text. I used a paintchart from the 1950s, Sissons Brothers & Co Ltd of Bankside, Hull as a further reference – Sea Fern, Cornflower and Jasmine are the colours from there.
This design was applied to badges and swingtags to use in workshops, and to a range of materials to share across social media.
For the second phase, yellow became more prominent. I wanted a sense, expressed through the change in design, that things were cranking up, getting hotter, getting brighter. Because yellow is a bright, cheerful colour which is often associated with happiness (think Mr Happy and acid house), but because it also represents shared and public things when used in public spaces – yellow boxed junctions, yellow buses, yellow taxis and yellow litter bins. So this also moved a change – from the closed workshops to an open event.
I actually changed the yellow after the first round of publicity materials for Bedford Happy were produced- not something a marketeer would do, but I’m an artist and I’m allowed to.
So the range of limited edition prints and posters, available on the day of the artwork, are in a much brighter shade of yellow than the poster advertising the day. There were five limited edition posters, and a Bedford Happy manifesto.
There were also badges, stickers and an open edition of A4 posters, distributed across the town in the style of political posters. These are available to download from the Revolutionary Arts site.