Design of Art@Ancrum event directory

Tuesday 18 April 2017

Designing the event directory for Art@Ancrum

The directory is used by visitors during the event to identify what interests them, and to help them locate the relevant venues.

I am delighted to have designed the event directory for Art@Ancrum this year, a copy of which will be provided to each visitor to guide them around the event.

Art@Ancrum is a local arts event which has been gradually growing since 2012. The people of Ancrum in the Scottish Borders host local artists in their houses for the May bank holiday weekend, creating exhibition settings which are varied and intimate. The village hall, church, and pub also get involved, resulting a fabulous community atmosphere.

With a broad variety of artistic techniques represented in a range of temporary venues throughout the village, the challenge was to use design to help readers select the exhibitors which interest them quickly, and to then help them find the relevant venues easily.

Selecting an appropriate format

Having identified the essential information which needed to be communicated, it was important to find a format which accommodated it effectively. Choosing the correct format for a printed document can play an important role in clarifying the message.

In this case the content fell into three distinct types – the exhibitor’s profiles being the largest, followed by the map showing the location of the venues, and finally a small amount of general text-based information.

In order to accommodate this distribution of information I decided to use an 8pp cross fold format. This would allow the largest amount of continuous space possible for the exhibitor profiles, a large area for the map, and still leave the front cover free, while the back cover suited the text-based information.

A cross fold format creates one large continuous space when the paper is opened fully

This fold is known as a cross fold, quarter fold, right-angle fold, or french fold

Displaying the exhibitor profiles in one space is important because it presents the user with an easy overview of everyone who is exhibiting, and avoids the problem of some profiles being overlooked if they continued onto another part of the directory.

Using colour to help clarify complex information

In order to make the specialism of each artist clear at a glance I created seven colour-coded categories. Colour coding allows users to quickly identify all the people working in a particular specialism. A visitor with a particular interest in ceramics, for example, would be able to pick out all the relevant artists at a glance.

When using colour coding to communicate information in this way it is generally considered best practice to use no more than seven colours. Because I was on the upper limit of this guideline I also included the names of the categories in the coloured bars. This has the added benefit of ensuring that the categories remained clear to any visitors with colour blindness.

It was important to create a palette of colours which would be distinct enough to communicate the different categories of artists. But I also needed to balance function with aesthetics, and identify colours which would be suitable for this event, and which would work well together to create a calm and coordinated overall effect.

A palette of colours which are distinct enough to communicate the categories, but still suitable for an arts event

Top row: the seven colours used for the categories.
Bottom row: A distinctive red to indicate venue numbers, and neutral background colours.

The importance of consistency

As with any directory, the consistent presentation of entries is essential for ease of use. Each artist has an entry which is consistently structured in a way that also makes most use of the space available. This extends to the placement and size of all elements such as pictures, names, and categories.

Consistency of presentation is important in directory listings

Directory listings are easier to scan and use if all the entries are presented consistently.

In the case of the venue number the information is not only consistently sized, coloured, and positioned in the directory, but the venues are labelled on the map in the exact same way. This helps to reinforce the connection between the two sets of symbols.


With thirty-three artists taking part this year, space for the artist profiles was at a premium. It was necessary to tread a fine line between fitting everything in, and having a directory that is easy to read and use. This made the choice of typeface doubly important. I selected the Scala family as its large x-height and comparatively narrow body allow it to allow it to remain readable while fitting more information into the space than other typefaces might have allowed.

Using two typefaces from the same family provided flexibility

Scala and Scala Sans both have large x-heights and relatively narrow bodies, making them both easier to read at smaller sizes, and capable of accommodating larger amounts of text.

Scala is a type family which includes both a serif and sans serif typeface. This allowed me the flexibility to use both forms as appropriate across the directory, whilst maintaining a coherent appearance overall.

Sarah did an amazing job pulling together and designing the leaflet for Art @ Ancrum for us. This included creating a new map, and fitting in all our artists details and images in the desired space. The final print, which she sourced for us at a very reasonable cost, was very well received by all the visitors to our event. I would highly recommend her for her graphic and typograpic skills, and found her very easy to work with.
Ian Oliver
Art @ Ancrum

If you are planning an event and would like to discuss the design of your event directory, or if you need to communicate complex information of a different sort, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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Photograph of Sarah Cowan

Hello! I’m Sarah, an independent graphic designer & typographer, helping businesses to communicate their unique selling points through printed marketing and communications.

I’ve been sharing my knowledge about design, typography, marketing, branding and printing since 2014. I hope you enjoy reading my blog.

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Sarah Cowan