Semóye [sa-mai-yuh] is a one day conference touring in parks across British Columbia, Canada on the topic of language diversity. The conference is targeted towards educators and caretakers who want to better accommodate multilingual students and advocate for the protection of endangered languages. In a blend of storytelling, workshops, and lectures, the speakers provide content designed to support, inspire, and empower curious individuals.
TIMELINE 8 Weeks
TOOLS Illustrator, Photoshop, Figma, After Effects
For this project, I was tasked with creating and branding a conference in the industry vertical of education with the added theme of home.
I have taken a number of classes on linguistics in the past, and it's a subject that really interests me, so I decided to pursue it as the topic of my conference. Keeping in mind the theme of home, I explored the idea of native languages, and what it means to speak a different language at home and at school. In developing the foundation for the event, I wanted to maintain values of Empowerment, Curiosity, and Empathy. These words guided the creation of a vision statement, mission statement, unique selling point, and core value proposition which determined the direction of the project. Given that Vancouver was designated a hotspot for endangered language by National Geographic, I chose to host the conference at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
To reach the name Semóye, I went through an extensive naming brainstorm. To begin, I identified unique aspects and benefits of the conference which were then categorized by themes. These themes informed more keywords which were translated into visuals. From each visual I brainstormed realistic, wordplay, and abstract names, which resulted in two names I liked most. The name crossword encompassed the idea of a challenge ahead and the ability of language to unlock possibilities. Semóye is the Halq'eméylem word for bumblebee and represents honesty and willingness to serve the community above all else. This name tied in an endangered language using the word for an endangered animal, and allows attendees to learn part of a new language in an approachable way.
Based on my conference's values, I extrapolated the personality traits nuanced, approachable, and imaginative. These became the guiding words for creating my moodboards. I liked the idea of conveying complexity and nuance in some way, but I also wanted it to remain approachable and unpretentious for viewers.
In my initial poster iterations, I explored the metaphor of the bumblebee and the idea of bees (conference guests) pollinating the garden (spreading their knowledge and enacting change and growth). I created the tagline "spread the word", which encompasses the bee metaphor, a motivation to advertise, and the idea of teaching a new word: Semóye. I also explored the use of symbols from the International Phonetic Alphabet layered together to create a dynamic background.
In a second round of posters, I moved forward with the typographic approach, experimenting with new background text, speaker photos, and the new tagline: "Imparting language, strengthening community".
After creating further iterations of my posters, I was feeling stuck. The decision to move forward with the simpler, typographic solution made sense, but I was having trouble finding ways to push beyond my initial poster. My main concern was that I was beginning to create a visual language that felt formal and academic, but discussing subject matter that is meant to push beyond standard teaching methods and invite imagination. For this reason, I revisited the concept of the conference itself, making the decision to move the location from the Vancouver Convention Centre, to a variety of nature locations in BC. Additionally, I decided to specify a theme for the conference: storytelling as a force for imparting language. These changes set Semóye apart from other education conferences, and strengthen the connection between the nature-related name and the actual conference content.
While creating my applications, I continued to explore photo treatments. Each speaker photo was found from a pretty different location and context, so I decided to use duotone to unify the photos. Further exploring my storytelling theme, I made each photo look like a Polaroid to evoke the feeling of looking through family photos and to align with my value of curiosity.
Next, I added two more symbols to pair with the bee. The rings of a tree to further represent recording history, and a fern which grows by spreading its spores to emphasize the spreading of knowledge. And after some critique, I brought in the bright salmon and navy blue colors to accompany the muted earth tones, bringing some energy and excitement back into the brand.
Lastly, I added a bold sans serif to create more typographic contrast with the existing serif type system. My final logo lockup consists of the conference title and pronunciation and the four tour dates.
With my revised design system, I began creating the final versions of my deliverables. With the merchandise, I wanted to create items that aligned with the conference values and wouldn't just be thrown away after the conference. As a result I designed a storytelling themed take-home package for each attendee to use during the conference, including a workbook, pen, poster, and stickers.
For my environmental graphics, I wanted to create something that would stand out against the park landscape, but not be destructive or obtrusive. In order to accommodate the 4 consecutive tour dates, it needed to be easy to install and fit in a variety of landscapes. My solution was to create a series of multipurpose blocks that can be carried in and out of the parks with ease, and rearranged to fit the speaker's needs. When stacked together, they create a backdrop for lecturers. Individually, they can be used for wayfinding and signage, as stools to sit and write on, or as platforms to stand on to gather the group's attention.
To create the blocks, I used Photoshop's generative AI tool to establish the structure, and then I cut it to fit my design.
In addition to the conference trailer, I made a template for the speaker introductions, featuring a short description, the lecture title, and an audio quote.