Designing for designers



San Francisco Design Week (SFDW) is one of the most revered events within the design industry. A week dedicated to celebrating design in a city considered by many to be the epicenter of modern design and technological innovation. Little did we know that SFDW 2017 was to become the biggest design week to date.

What we did


Brand positioning Naming Communication strategy Content strategy Social media strategy Qualitative and quantitative research studies


Visual identity Verbal identity Iconography Illustrations Motion design UX/UI design Websites and apps Retail / Environments Guidelines / Brand portals


Copywriting Campaign Design templates Office templates


Guldägget 2017, Silver

Challenge the industry

Essen International was contracted by AIGA SF to design the identity and campaign for SFDW. We needed to create a conversation piece that would be relevant to our times and challenge the design industry visually and intellectually. A campaign reflecting the boundary-pushing nature of San Francisco design.

Question everything

Collaborating with AIGA, we reflected upon what it means to be innovative. We realized that innovation is not simply about developing the new and different. To truly challenge and disrupt, we needed to question what already exists. This notion became the foundation for that year’s theme – a week to question everything.

Look a little closer

For the visuals, we created graphical abstractions inspired by prominent social issues in the US and the world. A droplet inspired by climate change and water scarcity. Ripples of fabric inspired by waving flags and rising nationalism. And folded stacks of paper inspired by the omnipresent impact of media.

Think about it

Our approach resulted in an engaging and thought-provoking identity that sparked conversation and invited the audience to reflect upon the role of design in society. Can design affect social change? Is collaboration the heart of design? Can morality and design coexist? We offered no answers, but merely prompted some of the most challenging questions facing today’s design world.

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