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Essen International x SF Design Week

San Francisco Design Week is one of the most awaited and revered events within the design sphere. It is a week fully devoted to celebrating design in a city considered by most to be the quintessential mecca of design and technological innovation. Essen International was asked to create an identity and campaign that could illustrate how uniquely boundary-pushing San Francisco actually is.

We began the creative process by defining what makes San Francisco so unique, specially when it comes to design and technology. After collecting insights from different members of the design community in San Francisco we concluded that what makes this city so peculiarly progressive is the fact that it is constantly pushing-boundaries. San Francisco has made its life mission to continuously and relentlessly push boundaries in all areas of society, politics, creativity and technology. Together with AIGA SF we reflected upon what it entails to be boundary-pushing and innovative. We came to the conclusion that innovation is not just about developing the new and the different. To push boundaries and to innovate we need to question what already exists. Before we challenge and disrupt what is out there, we must question it first. This notion of relentless questioning became the foundation for this year’s theme— A week to question everything.

The timing for such a theme couldn’t be more timely. Current events have challenged our assumptions and ambitions. This has urged us to reflect upon issues that change the way we understand design. This is truly a time for asking questions. Can design affect social change? Is collaboration the heart of design? Do morals and design go hand in hand? We want to use Design Week to provoke and invite people to question design, its purpose, its place in the world, its intentions, its aesthetics, its function. These questions are the focal point of the campaign and are complemented by a series of monochromatic graphics.

The complementing visuals are graphical abstractions inspired by current prominent social issues in America and in the world. The first graphic element are abstract renditions of drops of water. Water plays a pivotal role in the controversial phenomenon that is climate change, it is by far the most valuable yet sadly undervalued natural form of currency. Water is nature’s currency. Its excess or its scarcity have the power to alter communities, nations and entire ecosystems. Water is specially a subject close to California’s heart, a region known for its droughts and its quasi romantic relationship with the sea.

The second graphic element featured in the campaign are textured ripples of fabric which are inspired by waving flags. These abstract flags are meant to represent the eminent rise of nationalism, an extremist mutation which tends to disguise itself under the pretense of unwavering patriotism.

The third graphic element takes the shape of folded stacks of paper, which are inspired by the omnipresent impact of media today. For better or worse, media has steered the course of the past year, both socially and politically.


There is so much happening and there is so much to question.

This year we will make San Francisco Design Week a week to question everything about everything and everything about design.

Essen International is a Scandinavian design agency in San Francisco and Stockholm offering progress by design.

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