The Festival of Urgent Reinventions

The events of the past several years exposed a fundamental truth—what we have come to accept as the status quo was no longer working. In response to the moment, New York-based NGO, The Great Foundation, came to us with a big ask: Develop an idea that will make a difference in the world. That prompt led to The Festival Of Urgent Reinventions (F.O.U.R), a virtual conference-slash-incubator aimed to tackle the world’s most urgent and systemic issues.

Setting the stage

2020 will be remembered as one of the most challenging years in modern history. But it also showed us what's possible when we put our minds together. It was during this time that The Great Foundation came to us looking for an idea to ignite positive change in the world.

Through numerous rounds of research, ideation, and conversation, we arrived at an idea for a virtual event, pairing a TED-style conference with the community-led spirit of a hackathon. Our goal was to establish a platform for change: uniting thinkers, creators, and innovators from all backgrounds and skill sets to help solve the world’s most pressing systemic issues.

A brand as a call to action

At the highest level, we wanted the event’s name and brand to be free of abstraction. To give people something to rally behind, it had to be instantly clear and solution-oriented. The Festival Of Urgent Reinventions served as both our name and a call to action, while the F.O.U.R acronym gave us a foundational throughline for the event’s format: four briefs, centered around four of the world’s most pressing issues. Each presented by a credible changemaker in the community.

Reinventing the wheel

To cut through the noise, the brand leans into the aesthetics and ephemera of activism and protest publications. We built the visual identity system around a flexible (and visible) grid, with various elements jumping out in organized chaos. Oversized typography caters for provocative and rallying messaging, and floods of color convey a sense of optimism and momentum.

The identity is centered around an intricate wheel device. Historically, we’ve been told the wheel isn’t something worth reinventing. So, in the spirit of F.O.U.R, we took it into our own hands, re-imagining the wheel as a symbol for radical change.

F.O.U.R is about enabling civic participation in the truest sense of the word; open, creative, social, generous and generative—and with radical imagination as our guiding force.

Jack De CaluwéExecutive Creative Director
A newspaper, a bilboard, a poster, a laptop, and a phone all sharing different images of F.O.U.R.

Building The Destination

The website was our primary expression of the brand, and an essential part of the user journey – responding to 3 distinct moments in time, from teasing, to informing, to eventual wayfinding during the event. The site provides clarity and discoverability across the 4 briefs, and enables users to go broad as well as narrow while engaging with content.

Organizing the event

In term of organization, we wanted to approach this conference through the lens of the audience experience, from initial marketing and outreach all the way through to winner announcements and follow-up content. Because F.O.U.R was a digital-first event, and no precedent had been set for a best-in-class virtual conference, we leaned heavily on tools like Slack and Zoom (tools we use to collaborate as a company on a daily basis) to innovate and add depth to the experience.

Building a community

To make F.O.U.R a reality, we needed to turn a grassroots budget into a movement. We began to rally a community around the themes of the event, mobilizing across Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and LinkedIn to reach anyone with a passion for the environment, climate, social justice, technology, and entrepreneurship.

To further spread the word, we developed a comprehensive comms plan, including organic and paid marketing, a newsletter program, influencer partnerships and sponsorship outreach. Through our social channels we expanded on our mission, announced our lineup, released the briefs, and built momentum through various content franchises aimed to delve deeper into the stories behind F.O.U.R.

Looking to the future

The first Festival Of Urgent Reinventions took place in February of 2021, with a second edition earlier this year in 2022. With a total of 5,556 attendees across 15 time zones and a thriving slack community, the festival continues to be an incredible success.

In response to the briefs presented at the events, over 200 ideas were submitted, with one winner awarded per brief based on a comprehensive judging metric. The winning ideas ranged from a pay-it-forward subscription service in support of Black moms, to a mushroom-based water filter that decreases the need for bottled water, to an incubator-program for entrepreneurial people with disabilities.

Rather than a single event, F.O.U.R is a platform that will continue to scale and evolve to meet the most pressing needs of our time. As the community continues to connect, share, and innovate, the impact of F.O.U.R carries on toward a better future.

Find out more about the event here.

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