Educator Case Study: Conestoga students learn to collaborate through film festival campaign and collateral project

Case Study by Molly Hill RGD, Conestoga College

Project led by John Baljkas, Molly Hill RGD and Mike Powell RGD


With its unique immersive environment and small class sizes, graphic design students at Conestoga College are able to work collaboratively on many projects in studio groups (4 to 5 students in the same year) and in partnerships between students in different years of the program. This cross-pollination of talent and ideas offers students many benefits including peer mentorship (for second- and third-year students), the ability to work on larger projects with multiple components and the ability to work on a truly collaborative project, which is indicative of what will be required of them in their future design workplaces.  


Project: Design Campaign and Collateral for a Film Festival 

For this project, partnerships are formed between second- and third-year students and components are graded in three courses: 2D Design [Design Studio†], Typography, Packaging and Printing Technology & Electronic Production [Design Technologies†].

† Proposed course title changes Fall 2014


Each partnership randomly selects a film director from a pool curated by faculty members. The teams are tasked with developing the following components as part of an extensive design system for their festival, including:

  • Research and planning
  • Festival naming
  • Festival identity
  • Poster
  • Festival give-away
  • Festival program
  • Ticket design & VIP passes
  • Animated logo and trailer
  • Website


Students receive a detailed project brief that outlines all required deliverables and deadlines for the film festival campaign. Once the film director has been selected, partners must work together to research the director's films, as well as the culture of those films; perhaps even the resulting cult or sub-culture that exists around a particular director or film.


PACK OF STRAYS: Wes Anderson Film Festival

Collaboration on various components between Kevin Tome and Sara Helm

The promotion for this hypothetical film festival for director Wes Anderson includes a logo, business card, program, poster, website and animated logo. Patterns were used to mimic the look and feel of the patterns and colour palettes of his movies. View trailer (Footage and images used in all projects are for academic purposes only.)


Following the research phase, partners engage in a naming exercise. In overseeing this part of the project, faculty guide the identity development process to ensure students are thinking about creating a brand that can be sustained over the collateral program (from print to screen-based animations to websites).


After establishing a name, identity and basic applications for the festival branding (on-screen visuals and business cards), students collaborate to design posters and programs. 


This stage involves establishing the overall design system, which will be the basis for the work created by each partner. Consistency of imagery, iconography, fonts, layout, messaging and conceptual metaphors are considered, debated and critiqued to ensure each element aligns with the established system. 


Goddamn: Clint Eastwood Film Festival 

Identity Design by Lin Oosterhoff & John Roscoe

Video and additional collateral, chrome rendering of identity by Lin Oosterhoff

Goddamn is a fictional film festival featuring the work of Clint Eastwood. The festival branding is meant to shock as well as intrigue and plays with the theme of opposites. The branding embodies the two sides of Eastwood—the man with the tough exterior and the thoughtful director. View trailer (Footage and images used in all projects are for academic purposes only)


Once the essential components of the design are established, students begin working independently on different elements of the campaign. For independent work, students are encouraged to manage their time efficiently and be aware of deadlines. 


In consultation with third-year students, second-year students refine poster designs and develop concepts for VIP packages, festival give-aways and tickets. Due to the complexity of the project, students must think about different elements of communication - what information should be prioritized, how it should be presented, how tickets are being ordered, processed and bundled and so on. 


Third-year students focus on refining the program design and creating the festival website. Students are encouraged to consider user interface principles, site maps, wire frames and methods of information delivery through text, image and layout. The last component of the design system is a short trailer, created in After Effects, which incorporates an animated version of their identity for the festival.


F#CKLORE: The films of Quentin Tarantino

Identity Design by Holland Freund, Loretta Thompson and Taylee Buttigieg

Materials shown and animated trailer by Holland Freund

View Trailer (Footage and images used in all projects are for academic purposes only.)


During the entire process, students are constantly consulting with their partners to make decisions on all components of the project. Third year students typically act as Art Directors, but this is not always the case. Partners are free to choose their roles based on what works best for their individual working styles. 


RODERICK: The Other Brother Coen Brother Film Festival

Identity Design by Serah Sehadeo & Zak Hannah

Linoblock illustrations created by Zak Hannah

The concept behind the name of this festival came from the Coen Brothers themselves. Joel and Ethan Coen credit a fake persona, Roderick James, for the editing of their films, even though it is known that Joel and Ethan Coen edit their own films.



Any tactile process, pen and paper, Adobe CS (Illustrator, InDesign, AfterEffects, Dreamweaver, Premiere, others as required), Digital SLRs, Wacom tablets, library resources, research and interviews and photo studio/equipment. 



A Project Page is distributed to students for each component of the campaign, specifying the Evaluation Criteria for that piece of the assignment and what course it will count toward. 


For collaborative elements such as the naming and concept for the identity, second and third years are evaluated under the same criteria and are graded together. 


The program, website and animation components are the responsibility of the third year students - only the third years receive instruction on these elements of the project, and they receive individual grades for their work. That being said, third year students are still expected to consult with their partners during the process to ensure consistency across the campaign. 


A peer review is conducted at the end of the project, the results of which are counted toward each student's individual 'professional conduct' evaluation. 



Based on the quality of work produced, the project has been very successful in achieving the desired learning outcomes. 


The multiple components of this project helps students gain extensive experience across a variety of skills and practices including research, concept development, collaboration, interpersonal problem solving, self-reflection, time management, iterative process, layout and typographic concepts, 4D considerations, software prowess, multi-channel marketing, and more. 


In the future, we hope to introduce more collaboration between second and third year students on the digital components of the project, such as web site planning and design. 


Educator Takeaways

  1. Working closely with students at the early stages of the project helps ensure partnerships get off to a good start. The beginning is often the most difficult part of the process, and faculty involvement helps resolve conflicts and establish the roles within the partnership so things run smoothly moving forward.  
  2. Developing a project made up of multiple components with criteria spanning several courses helps ensure students are approaching the challenge holistically. It forces them to consider how all of the parts work together to create a successful end result and helps them view design in the context of problem-solving. 
  3. While it may not be popular among students, having faculty place them in balanced partnerships for group work facilitates more successful collaborative outcomes where the end result is the product of an equal working relationship rather than one student carrying all the weight.

Student Takeaways

  1. While it may be challenging, working with someone who takes a different creative approach can be a good opportunity to explore new ideas. Brainstorming and reviewing different concepts with another person may be time-consuming, but it is worth the effort to reach a creative solution that you may not have been able to come up with on your own. 
  2. Equal contribution within a partnership is difficult to achieve - especially when working with someone at a different experience level. It's important to resist the temptation to take control and instead focus on the learning experience from both sides. 
  3. Considering how a design will translate in different formats is a great way to explore new technologies and applications - sometimes the best way to do this is to get away from the computer, get your hands dirty and start thinking outside the box. 

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