Fedora: A stairway to glory

Fedora: It’s a three-act Umberto Giordano opera from the late nineteenth century inspired by a play written for Sarah Bernhardt. It’s also the name of a revived brand: Fedora, an association of arts patrons whose identity won Stratégies’ Grand Prix for design. As Fedora’s director Edilia Gänz explained, the association, also known as the European Circle of Philanthropists of Opera and Ballet, was founded 20 years ago by composer and orchestra director Rolf Liebermann “to renew and rejuvenate dance and lyrical art in Europe.” After a period of inactivity, the organization was reborn in January 2014.

When they met on 12 March, all of Stratégies’ jurors raved about Landor’s design for Fedora’s identity. “The Grand Prix must celebrate courage, but also celebrate the virtuous connection between insight, idea, and execution,” said Olivier Auroy, global corporate director of CBA. “When we choose the Grand Prix, we’re looking for a campaign that changes the industry,” added Michaël Boumendil, chief creative officer of the audio branding agency Sixième Son. There were no doubts about Fedora’s simple design. “It’s a magnificent idea,” said Michael Bezou, creative art director at Saguez & Partners. Isabelle Patard, head of brand identity for SNCF, described the Fedora brand as “an original and instantly understandable idea.”

A differentiated idea

Clear and elegant, Fedora’s logo removes the shape of an F from a rectangle and in its absence reveals a set of stairs leading to a stage. Despite how simple the logo seems, Luc Speisser, managing director of Landor’s Paris and Geneva offices, said, “We worked with Fedora for months in advance, learning about its beliefs and convictions.” After several workshops, Landor came to “a differentiated idea: Fedora’s mission could be to find new talents and use them to infuse new life in opera and ballet. The logo’s three steps symbolize how Fedora’s patrons make it possible for these new talents to access the stage. The logo’s color—white—represents a blank page waiting to be filled.”

Fedora: A stairway to glory

Landor also developed a language for advertising imagery. Many opera companies are content to simply use photos of performances—not the most creative solution. Instead, dancers’ movements inspired Landor’s communications system. The posters display small strokes created by a dancing ballerina whose slippers have been dipped in paint.

For Romeo and Juliet, two clusters of black-and-white points face each other; in the middle, two touch: Montague and Capulet watch Romeo and Juliet.

For Swan Lake, the black swan faces the white swan. In between them, ripples created by dancers’ leaps form a wave.

Fedora’s white logo is printed at the foot of each poster, just as it is placed on all of Fedora’s tools for print communications, from stationery to ink pads. A clever invitation card unfolds to become the three emblematic steps—a very refined pop-up. “Fedora speaks particularly to donors, benefactors who have access to the most beautiful artistic spectacles. This is a very VIP target audience,” explained Landor’s Luc Speisser.

A symbolic object

Fedora’s F is also found in the design of its trophies. The Fedora–Van Cleef & Arpels Prize for Ballet, worth 100,000 euros, and the Fedora–Rolf Liebermann Prize for Opera, worth 150,000 euros, were awarded on 6 January at the Opéra Garnier in Paris. The white trophy is the shape of Fedora’s F and stands by itself, a design feat. “To produce the trophy, we had to be magicians,” joked Luc Speisser, “but it’s a fabrication secret, like the Coca-Cola recipe.” It’s the perfect physical symbol of the Fedora brand, which above all seeks to be “chic but not elitist.”

This article, translated by Hannah Foltz, was first published in French by Stratégies (15 April 2015).