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Coachella Music Festival: The Man & People Behind the Design

Here’s a post I am really excited about. Today, we’re talking with Michael Rocchio of 1424 Studios, the man behind the scenes of Coachella Music Festival’s print collateral and, more specifically, producing Coachella’s ticket/wristband “box”. The box is manufactured/produced by the good people at AmericasPrinter.com and Mike represents them in the process to get it done year after year.

As part of a great team of people, he helps the brand identity of the festival across all mediums to make sure it is a cohesive experience.

Personally, I feel an affinity for Coachella Music Festival not only because I’m a huge music person, but also because I went to the first one back in 1999 and for many years thereafter. I haven’t gone in the last couple of years, but I’m sure I’ll be back when I can. (Shameless plug ahead.) I even helped Mike out on some production work to recreate the poster design from years past into large format signage that is displayed on site during the festival. Anyhow, it gets bigger every year and the variety of fun to be had and bands to see is always top notch. People from around the world flock to Indio, California to experience it each April.

So, without furthur ado, here is my little interview with Mike about his background and involvement in the Festival as well as some additional resources for digging deeper.

1. Tell us a little about yourself. how you got started as a designer, and all that good stuff.

When I was 18 years, old I jumped into the fire and decided to start a music magazine, called Mean Street. I had no experience with design and didn’t know what was involved. Within two months of doing this, I found a mentor that was an artist and a veteran of the local newspaper who taught me how to design and the foundations of the art. Within that first year of doing the magazine’s design I learned a lot. Then we worked more as partners. So, out of necessity I learned design and production.

While Mean Street magazine was for myself and not a commercial endeavor, I had a passion to make it work and through this I learned about printing and publishing. Also, working within this world I established relationships with bands and a solid network. Then, I started to get approached by these bands and promoters to start doing cassette covers and other related design work. So, most of what I’ve designed commercially was entertainment and music focused. A&A graphics (now AmericasPrinter) became a connection. It was around 1991 and A&A was one of the largest rave flyer printers around at the time. With them and working with them I learned higher end offset printing and got into print brokering. Print manufacturing became a good business for me and I stopped producing Mean Street magazine in favor of this around 1998.

2. How did you get involved in the branding/design/collateral for Coachella?

(credit: Coachella.com)

Coachella poster (Credit: Coachella.com)

Since I already established a relationship from my Mean Street days with the guy that started the Coachella Music Festivals, Paul Tollett, we were close enough that I witnessed his brainstorming of the very idea. Prior to Paul’s conceptualizing Coachella Music Festivals, I also had an established relationship with Bill Fold, whom I knew since I was a teenager. So, I essentially helped connect Bill and Paul together. That helped cement my involvement with their projects.

Carlos Reynoso, a friend at the magazine worked at A&A graphics, which got me involved in the printing by proximity. By the second year of Coachella, I got more fully involved in it when Carlos went to work with Goldenvoice. Carlos also knew Bill Fold, so between all of us and the addition of Urb magazine and Goldenvoice, we made it work.

The lead designer who produces Coachella’s look and feel is a man named Paul Cutler. He does the poster design that sets the tone each year. Paul is the senior designer at Goldenvoice. The basic idea of the sunset colored background and palm trees has withstood the test of time for over 15 year, like the one above. Also be sure to check out this gallery of each year’s posters.

(Aside: Here’s a cool look back at people trying to figure out the Coachella poster’s design font and Paul himself chiming in with some info.)

Posters and wristbands and videos, oh my!

There are other ancillary pieces that Mike helps to produce such as designing numerous onsite signage, the day-of guide (booklet), and the scannable RFID wristband. He also produces the staff guide, a 24-page booklet that includes FAQs for the staff, detailed maps for back stage layouts, and other information for the staff such as payroll locations and emergency preparedness guidance. It is a large tabbed piece with fold out maps. There is also a piece produced as an access guide for visitors with handicaps. Other signage/graphics are created for the social media kiosk. Mike also wrangles and supplies updated graphics for the website and accompanying smartphone app that has information such as the lineup, set times, and maps.

However, one of the more exciting elements that were created for Coachella in recent years is the box that the ticket (which is basically just a high tech wristband) comes housed in. Be sure to check out this blog post by Martha Spelman, who explores this ticket package in some detail.

The ticket box (Credit: MarthaSpelman.com)

Each year, a bevy of videos pop up to show off the box design including “unboxing” videos and the excitement created around receiving it. There are even some Coachella spoofs featuring the ticket box that are pretty hilarious. Check out the Coachella Killchella, below.

Coachella Killchella

And now, back to the interview.

3. How did you start the idea of the ticket box? 

I helped conceptualized the ticket box with some ideas from Goldenvoice and the modest budget we had that first year. 2011 was a valiant first effort. Looking back, it was done well, but not as good as it could have been. In 2012, with a little more budget, we got to evolve the design further on the “turn edged box” (cigar style box).  We wanted to do something informative, something that included a calendar and a booklet that had basic information and something fun thrown in. Making the inside of the box like a diorama really got people excited about getting it. Along with getting hyped to go to the festival itself this ticket packaging was a special thing for people to receive.

By the way, Goldenvoice spends US $4-$5.00 per box to make them a reality.

For last year, the package was refined some more, included 1-inch buttons, and had a larger, more informative welcome guide. We plan on refining it more and more each year as Coachella feels that this is an important piece of their festival. (And I have to agree! — Jill)

4. I imagine that each year requires months of effort to bring all the elements together. What are the milestones that lead up to the event?

Milestone 1: Layaway tickets. Last year, they put half the tickets on sale, which end up selling out, and save the rest for later.

Milestone 2: Line up announcement in January

Milestone 3: The second half of tickets are released for sale.

Milestone 4: Customers receive the wristband and box packages.

Milestone 5: Set times are announced.

5. Who does most of the design while you are making sure all these things come together smoothly?

Dennis Gomez does the majority of the design and layout these days. He is my lead designer. Be sure to check him out. His site is: thirdeyegraphics.com

6. What are some other music-related projects you are working on?

First City Festival, held in Monterey, California. Check it out at firstcityfestival.com

My lead designer, Dennis Gomez, and I developed the branding on that. We did most of the marketing design and also designed and printed a 5 color silk screened poster for the show.

 

(Maybe AC needs to get Dennis in for an interview one of these days!) 😉

I really love the design of First City Fest, so kudos to Dennis and Mike!

Well, that wraps things up for the interview. I want to personally send lots of love to Mike for giving me such a fantastic history of Coachella Music Festival’s branding experience. It truly means a lot to me. I hope all of you enjoyed it as well.

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