He has now won two advertised competitive bids: Ralf Heller, the designer and art director from Frankfurt, has designed the key visual for the International Youth Convention 2019 and also the logo for the European Youth Day of 2009. In an interview, the 42 year old explained his ideas behind the designs and illustrated the difference between a logo and a key visual.
Ralf, the motto for the IYC 2019 is “Here I am”. You have designed a key visual for the occasion. What does that mean?
Ralf Heller: A key visual, is the central image which you translate one-to-one. It is normally used when launching campaigns. You look for a key visual when you start the process of launching an advertising campaign for an event, an object, a product or a brand. The key visual adds weight to a key statement, a brand or a product. This image crops up in all the advertisements and in all communication channels.
Why does the Youth Convention need a key visual?
In today’s world we are all overwhelmed with the communication which advertising presents. A key visual serves to identify company X, product Y or institution Z to us in exactly the same way as a logo does and is equally indispensable for such a major event as the International Youth Convention.
The name “logo” is commonly known; how does the key visual differ?
Logos are used to represent a mark or a business; also, for example the New Apostolic Church. The logo is a pictorial reinforcement of your mark, or your image. The logo isn’t really attributed to the product, but rather to the product’s name. The key visual reinforces the product content which is to be communicated in an advertising campaign, and which is usually of a limited time period. The special thing about the key visual is that it adds an emotional aspect to a campaign.
You were the winner for the choice of the European Youth Day 2009 logo. Why isn’t there a logo this time, but a key visual instead?
The commission previously was to design a logo for the European Youth Day. The reason why a logo wasn’t requested this time is a lesson learned from then. The logo of the European Youth Day was subsequently used as a logo by the Church. However in creating a logo for the European Youth Day which included a cross it would always have been in conflict with the logo of the New Apostolic Church, which also has an emblem with a cross in it.
So, with two crosses and therefore a key visual?
Yes. When the logo of the NAC and a new logo appear together they must harmonise with each other. That only partially worked with the logo of the European Youth Day. It makes good sense now to design a key visual and to call it so in the task commission.
Did you find the task now very much different in comparison with the European Youth Day, or were there similarities?
I found it to be very different. When the task requires a key visual to be designed, then there are other elements which must also be incorporated: a motto, the originating motto of the Church or additional information. These elements are variable! You also have to be able to test them on a poster in both the portrait and landscape formats. The logo is just one component of the complete communication.
Returning to the motto, “Here I am”, – what was the first thing which struck you with this motto?
That it wouldn’t be easy to find a concise key visual for the all-embracing statement of the motto “Here I am”. That could only function when the meaning of the motto, at its various levels, is clear to you. It starts with its intonation. You can say, “Here I am, or “Here I am”. You then become involved in thinking about, researching and reading from where the motto originates and what lies behind it. Who said it to whom and why? My first thought was that there was someone who needed help. Then your mind tells you that you have a friend, who says to you, “Here I am”.
You were the favourite on the EYD logo which was chosen. Did that put you under pressure this time?
No, not at all. I didn’t see any connection between the two, because it was so long ago. I didn’t have any other expectations than I normally have with my work and I didn’t have any immediate ideas as I first read the motto, “Here I am”, and then started the task in hand to produce a key visual.
How did you start to work on the task?
It is absolutely clear to me that it is God saying, “Here I am”. That applies equally to the believers. For me, there are two ways in which I can put it into a picture form; either in the shape of a figure or with a gesture. I then asked myself the question how I would display it as a pantomime. Then the idea came to me of the two hands. I tried many ideas to put that image into practice. The hands had to show that they said, “Here I am”; that they were friendly hands and not as if they were giving money out to someone. I also tried hands from above and hands from below, but that gave the impression of a festival, or as if someone was sowing seeds from above. Finally, it was evident that the hands had to come from the side and that they should be almost touching each other. This motive works well on placards, as well as on t-shirts, cups and the like. That convinced me, and so that is how I designed it.
The key visual is in blue. According to the task requirement the colours blue and orange could both be used. Why did you only choose blue?
I made the decision very quickly not to use the combination of blue and orange, as was the case for the European Youth Day. I had tried mixing blue and orange in my first design attempt, just to see if the combination worked. It could be the case that you make a layout for a placard in blue and it doesn’t look good in orange, or it gives a different effect and therefore makes a different statement. Blue, for example, is one of the most favoured colours worldwide. Orange is a signal colour; it isn’t for nothing that high visibility jackets are in orange, or that refuse collectors are dressed in orange.
What other considerations did you make?
One thought was to make the design more sober and formal. I needed a symbol which stood for position fixing or characterisation, as in the sense of “Here I am”. I have a Google pin; the sort of pin which you find on all navigation maps, which I used as a frame. Both draft forms looked really super, with one being sober and the other more emotionally charged.
Which design would you have chosen?
I would have chosen both of them, but I had the feeling with the pin that it wasn’t really appropriate for the Church. The pin reflected the aspect of establishing its position, but it lacked the sense of believing and God, so that draft version was only single-dimensional. The hands give a much higher significance level and have a more emotional effect. Therefore I am happy to know that the decision has been made to use the image showing the hands.
You were one of the first people to see the motto and have been working intensely with it. If you were one of the youth, what would you expect from it?
As a youth I would expect that the motto sits. I want to feel God throughout the Youth Convention; to know that God says to me, “Here I am!”
Many thanks for the conversation.
The interview appeared in a shorter version in the 3/2017 edition of the magazine "spirit". It can be subscribed to through the Bischoff-Verlag. Reports of the International Youth Convention, its preparation and a look behind the scenes will continue in each edition until 2019.
The key visual for the International Youth Convention 2019 can be found under the ”Download” heading in various versions for you to download.