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The Visual Theme of Relativity Fest 2019

JC Steinbrunner

There’s something about Relativity Fest that is transcendent. Sure, there are the facts: It’s an industry-leading legal technology conference; a gathering of our community of users, customers, data wizards, legal eagles, and geeks of all stripes; three days of inspiration and education. But something about that mix goes beyond the people, the place, the programming.

What is that essence? In this its tenth year, what are we really talking about when we talk about Relativity Fest?

This is the question we Relativians in marketing ask ourselves as we deliberate the kind of experience we want to provide our guests and colleagues in Chicago each fall.

Last year, we landed on origami—and all the clean lines and transformative messages it entailed.

This year, we gathered again our scrappy crew of event producers, program managers, industry strategists, artists, filmmakers, project managers, writers, web developers, animators, and logistics mavens (and one Ironman winner!). What can we create that respects what Fest has become, yet is fresh and true and compelling? Well.

We can write poems. (Lots of humanities degrees here in marketing.)

The RF19 Theme … in Verse

That’s right. The theme for our tenth annual Relativity Fest is a poem (a haiku, if you want to get technical about it). Let’s take a look.

Send light, reflections!

Shining bright like diamonds

The forms of gratitude.

“Wait, what?” you’re thinking. “You get paid to write this?”

I know, right? I do. As a leader of Relativity’s in-house agency within marketing, I have a number of responsibilities, none of which are launching Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. (There have been … interventions, when I try.) One of those responsibilities is finding ways to respect the history and vibrancy of the Relativity community while working to deepen our collective relationship.

Other things I take very seriously include our brand and my team. (Also breadmaking, but that’s another story.) I have the supreme luck to work with a band of talented, passionate individuals who care about their work and care about providing our community with a platinum-standard of hospitality.

But I digress; this is a story of poetry.

It started with a comment. One of my teammates noted diamonds are a traditional symbol of a tenth anniversary. (There are others, like tin, but c’mon.) Diamonds had promise, but I had to go deeper. I had to give my artists and writers and producers something to wrestle with. I had to balance guidance and rules, show them paths without walking down them. Funny what a poem can do.

Interpretation Becomes Reality

Poems have rules. Cadence, enjambment, narrative voice, punctuation, syllable count. These things provide structure but open up interpretation. Words have denotations; they have connotations. All these things layer into multiple means and modes of understanding. And that mental fission is what creatives need to get uncomfortable.

And an uncomfortable creative is a productive creative.

As each team member interpreted the haiku and worked together to program Fest, three themes regularly surfaced:

  1. Thankfulness for the community we have built, together, with our users and customers;
  2. Celebration for a decade of Relativity Fests in Chicago and London—a decade of learning and doing together; and
  3. Anticipation for bright, active, engaged relationships over the next ten years.

We started with jewel-like metaphors. We graduated to a feeling. Bright colors, complex gradients and curves, zippy text repetitions, and a focus on celebrating our guests. The warmth of connection, the bright empathy of shared stories, the excitement of possibility.

You’ll see all this in the vibrant signage. You’ll notice it in logistics like our new web page about inclusion at Fest. You’ll see it in programming like On the Merits, a new docuseries about our customers’ pursuit of justice, or Margot Lee Shetterly’s presentation on women in STEM. You’ll feel it in every handshake and shared meal.

Fest is a lot of things. It’s workshops and inspiration, networking and personal growth, industry news and professional development. But what powers all of that—what we can only begin to express in poetry—is the ineffable you, our guest, and the good work we’ll do together.

I hope to see you at Relativity Fest. We—the brand team, the sales and marketing departments, the 1,000+ employees who work at this stuff day in, day out—we are excited about it. We’re excited for you. Whether in a hotel or in the software, we hope you have a great experience.

Explore What You Can Discovera at the 10th Annual Relativity Fest

JC Steinbrunner is the senior director of brand at Relativity and the executive producer of On the Merits, a docuseries that explores how the Relativity community uses technology to find truths in data that promote just outcomes in important current events.

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