Guerilla Archaeology and Graphic Design: Evolving Identity, Engagement and Communication

Kirsty Harding, Graphic Designer and Digital Archaeological Illustrator
Cardiff University

I’m a graphic designer & digital archaeological illustrator. I have a long history with archaeology at Cardiff, having completed my archaeology degree here in 1999. The majority of my work is producing digital artwork (mostly maps, charts, graphs & infographics) for academic publications as well as some typesetting, booklet design and advertising work.  Since 2015, I have also officially been a Guerilla Archaeologist. Guerilla Archaeology is a Cardiff-based collective founded in 2011. It is made up of archaeologists, scientists and artists dedicated to bringing the past alive. 

Infographic designed to disseminate Guerilla Archaeology’s 2018/19 Feast Project engagement success.

Guerilla Archaeology create events intended to provoke thought and encourage engagement with the past through a range of unconventional methods in unconventional places. Mostly, we go and have fun at festivals with people while getting them interested in and excited about archaeology. Since 2011, Guerilla archaeologists have encouraged over 20,000 people to engage with the past at more than 35 festivals. We’ve involved people in many different activities from antler craft work at Glastonbury to stone age shopping at Shambala, from sun worshipping at Blue Dot to taking part in the Iron Age Olympics at Green Man. 

Guerilla Archaeology has a clear visual identity and logo which appears on Facebook, twitter, Instagram and all of our advertising and educational materials. It wasn’t always that way. Initially, advertising materials for Guerrilla Archaeology played with images from past activities & used catchphrases such as Get down & dirty with the past on a range of business cards & stickers. These were given out at events to reward participation, raise awareness and maintain contacts. Stickers were always popular, with adults and children alike. 

In 2016, Guerilla Archaeology took the The Bog Body Shop to Wilderness Festival, to explore the prehistory of personal grooming, body adornment, body modification, and different perceptions of beauty. We had stickers designed by Bryony Mulville to emulate The Body Shop logo, replacing the standard round shape which hugs the brand-name with the shape of a lunula necklace or collar, a distinctive crescent moon shaped early bronze age necklace form. 

2016 also saw Guerilla Archaeology, through association with Cardiff University Festival Research Group and Creative Cardiff, get involved with Sŵn Music Festival in Cardiff. Guerilla Archaeology created a pop-up music museum in Castle Arcade to coincide with the Sŵn music festival. The Music Museum was also invited to pop-up at the 2016 Festival Congress in Cardiff. I was commissioned to design the advertising material for the Sŵn Music Museum and a final report on the festival by the Festival Research Group. In the report and music museum advertising I utilised a font used by the Swn marketing team, Big Noodle titling, to maintain Sŵn festival brand consistency. The report was then widely distributed, including at a day conference attended by UK festival organisers. 

At this point it became clear that we had a branding problem. Guerilla Archaeology had no actual logo, as a result, no clear logo branding appears on the Sŵn advertising & literature alongside the Cardiff University, Creative Cardiff & Sŵn logos. We were missing out on easily demonstrating our involvement in projects, taking ownership of our own work and being easily identifiable. We needed a logo.

It occurred to me that with the Bog Body Shop stickers design we already had the start of a logo. The lunula was a pleasing shape to work with, great for stickers and linked to many Guerilla Archaeology themes such as lunatics, prehistory and early astrology. I had enjoyed working with Big Noodle Titling during the Sŵn project.

It is vaguely reminiscent of a stencil font, stencilling is often visual shorthand for rebellious acts of graffiti, itself a guerilla act. Big Noodle has clean lines, is easy to read and is great to play about with stretching, squashing and altering kerning (the space between letters). The standard Guerilla Archaeology logo was born and began to be used on all our social media,  advertising and educational materials. 

An example of a logo evolving through time – I’m not sure we’re ever going to reach the stage when Guerilla Archaeology is recognised by the lunala alone!

In common with many successful logos, our logo is able to evolve while still retaining recognisability. The logo design has been adapted for a number of different events and to suit different themes. The many variations of stickers given out at festivals continue to be ridiculously popular. The simple silhouette style of illustration lends itself to the design of clear, but interesting, infographics and advertising, which retain the visual identity of Guerilla Archaeology. At present we are using the antler design on our social media, this was originally designed in conjunction with our ancient antler working workshops at Glastonbury festival.

However, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are currently working on an Archaeology of Isolation online project and will be using a new logo variation for that. As Guerilla Archaeology evolves in changing times, so does our logo.