Making of Plai festival

This is a different kind of process presentation. Plai Festival
is one of the projects we're very proud of. And here is why.

Plai is a cultural love-fest that embodies all that is rich and lively and good - music, art, and diversity, which takes place every mid-September. It lasts for three wonderful days at the unique Timisoara Banat Village Museum.

Since 2006, Plai has been created entirely by volunteers who collaborate to bring together vibrant music, dance, workshops, exhibitions, plays, photography, film, children's events and educational activities from around the globe, a true celebration of our diverse cultures. Beyond great entertainment (which it is!), all the activities designed for this festival offer participants three days of living in the midst of artists from all over the world.

Challenge & Brainstorming

Along with world music, Plai offers people a free and non-conformist atmosphere, different ways to express multiculturality and diversity. Our challenge has been to communicate this as coherently and uniformly as possible. And the challenge was even bigger especially because this edition included over 200 cultural and artistic activities beside concerts, which was a large number of events even for a 3-days festival.

We started our brainstorming based on what was already known at that time by the organizers: that Plai Festival is perceived as a music festival, not a multicultural one. So we had to focus on multiculturality and the fact that in addition to concerts, there are many other cultural activities, workshops, etc. that take place during the festival.

It's always a pleasure to work with great people, people who put heart and soul into what they do and give us these wonderful festivals where art and culture are promoted, but also common sense and friendship. These are true values and Plai Festival shares them with such generosity every year.

We were so pleased to take part in the Plai 2010 Festival.

But it was also a challenge, a challenge that we tried to turn through
creativity, into a result that matches the festival'size.

Sorin Bechira - Art Director & Graphic Designer


Multiculturality & Diversity

So how does one express multiculturality? How do we visualize it? What sign, symbol, object can we use? After several unsatisfactory ideas in distress we put our noses down and what did we see waiting for us right there? One shoe, two shoes, three, four ... some sport shoes, other casual, some high heels. That's where diversity was hiding!

And furthermore, we figured we could turn all this into a cultural and ethnic diversity, easily identifiable by everyone.

We therefore decided to build the idea of multiculturality and diversity around shoes, backed up by an explosion of color and shapes.

However, besides suggesting the idea of multiculturality, we had to promote the workshops and other activities as well, so that the festival was correctly perceived by the public. Still, over 200 activities and workshops were supposed to take place during the festival. Promoting each one separately was easily ruled out. We had to work with short messages, but as comprehensive as possible. So, the Plai crew helped us divide the workshops and activities into three major themes: 1. Photo & Video; 2. Games & Jugglers; 3. Theatre, dance & reading.



Once the idea was accepted by everyone involved, we started doing sketches for compositions and moved on to the next step. The big challenge was collecting shoes that are specific to a particular ethnic group, so that we could depict greater variety. It turned out however that these shoes were hard to find even in their country of origin, not to mention in Romania.

It's the Plai crew who managed to obtain the traditional shoes - even if they had to go undercover in an apartment with precious resources in this regard, while the owners were quietly spending their holidays overseas. They also obtained (we were too afraid to ask how they did it) a pair of shoes that are specific for the Banat region, made 100% of rubber and over 100 years old.

Classic shoes were the easier thing to get: each of us brought one pair from of our own closet (a clean pair, of course).

Besides shoes, we have also gathered old cameras, two dusty film strips, books of all kinds, in all languages, more shoes 'dancing shoes, this time - hat, two theater masks (taken down for this good cause from the wall of Scart Loc Lejer (venue), where Aualeu Theatre plays), handicraft souvenirs taken or received from various countries, juggling objects and many-many handmade toys which, of course, we also played with. :D

Besides all this, Plai has brought us musical instruments, so diverse, that we didn' even know how to name some of them, nor the sounds they made.

This entire collection process took about one month, but it was worth the wait.


Photo Session

After enough material had gathered, we could start with the "photo shooting" phase. We improvised a photo studio in an office corner, which consisted of: a few sheets of 2*3 m white paper for the background, a theater spotlight with a stand included, a photo studio umbrella, two studio lamps, tripod, 2 Nikon cameras D50 and D90, with 50mm lens, chairs, a lot of duct tape, and then we used a 2m ruler for hanging the shoes with a cord.

Erik and Paul were busy for full five days with these photo sessions. One of them was taking photos, the other was holding lamps. And vice-versa. It was hard work, because the bright spotlight, particularly, was warming up "the studio" and it literally drove out the waters from the two photographers. Everything was done in a hurry, because the time left to start promoting was very short.

What I particularly liked about this project is that we approached a different style of graphics from what I've done so far. And as I am passionate about photography, I liked not only the fact that I worked a lot with photos, but also that I had the opportunity to take them, and not in any way, but in a makeshift studio.

Erik Erdokozi - Graphic Designer and Photographer


Photo analysis and processing

Once the sweating session under floodlights ended, Erik started the analysis and processing of the photos, a total of 362. But after seeing all the pictures that were made, we knew we had to add some color since we started off with the idea of multiculturality. We added an abundance of shapes and colors to the photographed objects, while keeping everything as real and non-digital, and as natural as possible.


Declining for
the communication materials:


The optimal solution was dividing the message into three sequences. Thus, we divided it on themes and proposed promoting the dominant activities, as follows:

The complete poster followed the three sequential posters, which itself was intended to promote the festival as a whole, with emphasis on the headliners.

  1. Photo & video,
  2. Games & jugglers,
  3. Theatre, dance & reading.
  4. The Final Poster


On the other hand, the TVC demands were very restrictive from a timewise point of view. To be more precise, we had to do two commercials: one of 30-45 seconds and one of 10 seconds, but with all information to be transmitted. Our one advantage was that the shoes could finally do what they know best: walk. And they had to walk into a story.

So, we gathered for a new brainstorming session, and once the story was found, we created the script. The joy of bringing it to life has fallen into Erik's hands, closely supervised and trained by Sorin, especially since After Effects, the program he worked with, was new for him.



After all this passed, we had to deal with the collateral materials, which required maintaining the visual communication unity as established. We customized badges, key chains, and the Plai super car - a 1973 VW T2B.


The festival schedule - a lot
of information in a pocket

The festival was approaching and it was time to start working on the program booklet, an A6 notebook that was a perfect fit in your pocket. As with any such event, the agenda is established when everything else is done - the moment we have the answers to the who, when, where and how - and it is always made in a hurry.

Eventually, the information came in quickly and, surprise: it was no less than 126 pages long. From this moment on, our "little notebook" did not in any way fit in any pants pocket. So we started to cut out, modify, regroup and build and rebuild the text pagination. It was not very easy, especially as 'division by 4' was a real pain in the neck, until we reached a roundabout reasonable total of 76 pages. But the result was a beautiful and joyful agenda, as was the whole festival experience.


T-shirts - silkscreen versus
full color foil

And like any other festival where volunteering and enthusiasm are on the order of the day, the organizers also wanted to personalize t-shirts. Since, unfortunately, silkscreen printing was not going to help us support the visual image designed for this festival, which was based on photography and lots & lots of color, the personalization method that we chose was printed foil, despite the disadvantage that it is less sustainable.



The website was actually the first thing to start with once we had the processed pictures. We made it a priority because a communication platform was needed urgently. We couldn't use the old site to start communicating about the new edition, since it had already started to have a shape and identity of its own.

First of all, we took all the content from the old site and reorganized it to gain consistency and ease of navigation. Besides restructuring the information, we added three status phases of the information display on the main page: pre-festival (with news about what was to follow during the festival), during the festival (with a focus on the current agenda) and post festival (with impressions, photos and interviews with the artists who attended the festival).

Once the site structure and site wireframe were completed, we started adding graphic elements. As an informational website, we chose to split a certain extent the actual content from the abundance of graphics used in other communication materials.

We continued with the site's implementation. Being a festival website we figured it would imply constant updates of information, and thus we set out to build the site on Wordpress, which was not an easy task for Radu, who had to customize the platform so that it worked ok with the "crazy" layout (ie many graphics) created by the designers.

WordPress was a natural choice for the new Plai website, because everyone is familiar with the interface, even if it is always a challenge to mold it into something different than a blog.

Plai was one of those projects that are a pleasure working on. It was very useful that the organizers knew what they wanted and that they understood some restraints that we met along the way - they have not even once complained about how difficult sometimes the content management of the site was.

Radu Bilei - Frontend Developer


Of course we have attended the festival, with over 5,000 other people in fact. We spent three days of music, art, multiculturality, a great, joyful, unique atmosphere. And both artists and participants enjoyed the spirit of the festival, like they recognized afterwards, through word-of mouth, email, social networks and even the media. And we felt proud that the edition was a success.

If you have not been this year to Plai, let us give you a friendly advice: do not miss the 2011 edition!

Hi folks,

I am writing this e-mail because, with your support this year, we finally managed to convey a clear image of what these three days really mean and what is the most important thing of all: the Plai spirit.

This is not just us saying it, but it is clear from every feedback we received from the visitors.

Most of the praises we have received were for the site map and information accessibility, but posters or "Plai vol.1" (the agenda - notebook) were not far behind, and as far as the t-shirts, they were nearly stripped of us.

It's your merit, therefore we thank you for the: initiative, cooperation, patience, patience and especially results. Your work has meant a great help!

Thank you once again for being involved in building a great PLAI identity!



PLAI team