by Michael Powelson, Creative Director, Riggs Partners
I’ll never forget being selected to develop the Indie Grits logo. Andy Smith had just been hired, and we met for the first time when the Nickelodeon came to interview my firm. It was one of the first pitches I recall being really excited about–excited to the point that my creative partner John Foust and I (both in our early twenties) hit the Nick folks with an overly earnest, bravado-laden speech. Something to the effect that there was no way they could go anywhere else for this work because we were their target demographic and understood what this festival was all about.
Fortunately Andy didn’t throw us out of the room. It was a gracious act of tolerance he would reprise numerous times throughout our collaboration. Not throwing us out when we insisted that a music playlist serve as our creative roadmap. Not throwing us out when we challenged the conventional wisdom surrounding attraction marketing. Not throwing us out when we argued for a logo that offered no visual reference to film, but instead took cues from buried plantation silverware and prison tattoos.
In developing concepts, John and I kept returning to images that evoked collisions of past and present as well as genteel society and rugged independence. For weeks we had this trippy, hypothetical dinner party playing out in our conversations with every kind of character imaginable seated around the table. Somewhere along the line, one of us said “…and you know they’re all eating off somebody’s great-great-grandmama’s silver that had to be dug up after the war.” The other countered, “Yeah, she’d be surprised how nice it looks clenched against cousin Duane’s knuckle tats.”
Multiple iterations ensued and ultimately the tattoos were scrapped for simplicity’s sake. We presented what became the logo along with two more expected directions, but advocated pretty passionately for the fist and spoon. Ten years later, I’m thrilled that this symbol of cultural paradox still announces the arrival of Indie Grits each April. The logo remains one of my favorite projects, just as the festival remains my favorite Columbia tradition.