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Case Study By

Two months


Action Arts League

Project Title

Figment Identity 360° Branding

  • Design firm: MSLK
  • Creative directors: Marc S Levitt, Sheri L Koetting
  • Designer: Ellen Johnston
  • Illustrator: Ellen Johnston
  • Photographer: Marc S Levitt
  • Production artist: Ellen Johnston
  • Content strategists: Marc S Levitt, Sheri L Koetting, Ellen Johnston
  • Project manager: Sheri L Koetting

Ed. note: This case study is a selection from the 2011 “Making the Case” competition, in which an esteemed jury identified submissions that demonstrate the value of design in a clear, compelling and accessible way. It serves as an example of how to explain design thinking to clients, students, peers and the public in general, based on specific metrics.


Figment, an annual art and cultural festival in New York City, needed to establish a new brand identity that would capture the creative spirit of the event. Working together with Figment’s Advisory Committee, MSLK devised a clever and flexible solution to Figment’s brand identity, carrying the concepts to online and printed materials designed to promote the event.

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New Figment identity and tagline (Courtesy of MSLK)

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Figment identity with theme incorporated into the logo (Courtesy of MSLK)

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Figment promotional material (Courtesy of MSLK)

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Figment identity on a t-shirt (Courtesy of MSLK)

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Figment postcards and invitations with new logo (Courtesy of MSLK)

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Figment's skinned website (Courtesy of MSLK)

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MSLK's poster for Figment's City of Dreams (Courtesy of MSLK)


Pro bono


MSLK worked with the Figment Advisory Committee to distill the essence of what the new identity should communicate. After a brief strategic analysis, it was decided that the Figment brand was best defined by three main messages: the event takes place on Governors Island, is participatory and is whimsical in nature.


Every year, Figment reinvented their promotions and brand identity in order to accommodate the various themes and styles of artist submissions. The challenge was to create a new image for Figment that not only was consistent and recognizable but also continued to foster Figment’s dedication to unbridled creativity.

The purpose of the new brand identity was to give Figment a chance to introduce the festival to New Yorkers outside the existing community, so it was important that it effectively communicated what to expect from the festival as a celebration of art, music, performance, sports and socializing.

Also, as an organization run largely in part by volunteers, Figment needed a solution that could be accomplished on a shoestring budget.


MSLK reminded Figment’s board executives that a year was a long time to expect the public to remember a brand. As a result, our strategy was to create a consistent and iconic vessel that was recognizable in form but flexible enough to accommodate the annual theme. This solution would then be extended across all media and uniquely promote the event year after year.

The Figment name and participatory nature of the festival made the visual of a thought bubble a natural fit. Paired with the tag line “What are you bringing?” the new brand identity encouraged participants to use their imagination and tap into their creative spirit. The thought bubble would become the structured vessel, allowing the content within to change annually as a solution to Figment’s tradition of different themes each year. In order to sidestep the challenge of which of the many Figment activities to feature in the promotional materials, we developed a series of illustrations that were whimsical in nature. This year’s theme was defined as being a “bright spot, fun and free of charge.” To incorporate all these elements, the location, Governors Island, became the center focus and bright spots were graphically interpreted with varying color gradients to showcase the variety within the festival.

MSLK suggested skinning the existing Figment website in order to keep costs low and to expedite the launch of the site. The header and footer of the website mimic the thought bubble visual creating an overarching element of fun, yet the actual content followed a systematic grid, which could expand and contract as necessary.

MSLK expanded the new Figment brand concept by creating promotional material for their City of Dreams event, a mini golf course with an artistic spin. The flexible nature of the new identity allowed MSLK to keep the shape of the thought bubble, replacing the illustration with a mini golf course. The trail of thought bubbles then transformed into an illustration of a golf ball bouncing to the green. In addition, the golf ball's position happily coincided with the “T” (tee) in the Figment logo.


MSLK was able to successfully unite the 22-person Advisory Committee and countless volunteers to create an identity that provided structure and room for creative expression. Our design solutions were well received by the client and eventually extended into additional promotional materials such as T-shirts, postcards and signage. The additional promotional efforts were successful in raising awareness for the event as art submissions and event promoters alike increased 200 percent from the previous year. Attendance for the event was up 30 percent. The City of Dreams attracted more participants than in any previous year and prompted the expansion of the golf course to go from the proposed 9 holes to 18.

Tags branding education Case study identity design