A Jewish film festival, minus the usual Jewish clichés

For three consecutive years, Volume designed the branding and promotion for the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. Rather than fall back on Jewish clichés and using film stills to drive the visual story, we instead proposed a communications strategy that was not only distinct from other local film festivals, but provided a new image for Jewish-related culture altogether in the Bay Area. That strategy has provided a through-line that has informed the promotion of consecutive festivals well after we stopped designing it. After 3 years of flat ticket sales, festival attendance increased by 15% the first year and continued to increase over the next two.

The identity for the 2007 Jewish Film Festival is based on our idea of “Festival of Light,” an intersection of the film medium and Jewish culture. We used sophisticated, mysterious and evocative imagery through literal “light painting” and expressive, fluid typography that also speaks to Jewish culture converging at the festival. The festival identity had to be expressed across a variety of media, including tickets, guides, badges, programs, shirts, bags, and a 30-second trailer. We specified orange staff shirts so the volunteers could be easily located by attendees in a morass of other filmgoers and paparazzi.


I just wanted you to hear again from me how great the final printed materials look! We distributed the catalog at our Board meeting on Tuesday night and there were audible ooohs and ahhs. One quote: ‘This is the best-looking guide ever.’

Peter Stein, SFJFF Executive Director

The 2008 Festival identity is a distillation of disparate cultural and symbolic strands. We pulled loose one of the two triangles from the Jewish star, abstracted it further and used this basic shape as the modular unit to create a mosaic that hints at both the multi-faceted nature of Jewish culture and the quilted ties that bind all Jews together.


The work you've done this year is glorious. After months of analyzing and manipulating the design elements for one thing and another, I grew blind to its magnificence. Seeing the poster under the bright lights on stage yesterday at the press conference made me fall in love with it all over again. It is truly incredible and makes the SFJFF look like a first rate operation, something to aspire to.

Elizabeth Greene, SFJFF Administrative Director

The 2009 campaign speaks to a contemporary Jewish culture that encompasses a more diverse range of experiences as Jews become more assimilated and, paradoxically, more “hidden in plain sight” amidst the ethnic melting pot of the Bay Area. Thus events like this film festival are when Jews and Judaism “emerge” (much like the typography in the materials) from this multi-cultural mélange to celebrate their heritage more acutely and publicly.