It’s that time of year again.
Or so you all say.
Because I, native New Jerseyan and complete Mardi Gras newbie, don’t exactly know what that means yet.
But here’s what I do know:
I know Fat Tuesday is the last hoorah before lent, a sort of clash of interests where gluttony, excess and general debauchery are played out to their ultimate extent before a long period of self-denial and sanctity. This in itself sets up the dual mentality of this whole situation: The earliest customs involved chasing a fattened pig through town and using up the last of the butter. But from the looks of the New Orleans specific breed, I am expecting a little more than that.
I had my first slice of King Cake a week or two ago, anxious to get a taste of what lay ahead. I’ll admit to having never consumed such a bright combination of purple, gold and green. There’s another curiosity: those colors. I see that gold again in the colors of The Saints and the purple along too in LSU’s gear, both colors speaking to a sense of royalty and old nobility. Green less commonly so, but perhaps green signifies the fresh burst of life spring will herald? Or does it bring to mind money and excess?
Now Mardi Gras hardly seems to need to market itself. Almost all of the collateral I’ve seen needs to only display those colors and the message is clear, just as iconic as the Christmas red and green or Halloween orange and black. Treatment of those colors, and all those associated messages and images range from elegant to outright tacky: the event is, after all, being portrayed for evening ball goers along with party animals. From what I’ve seen so far, different parties have different aims. Perhaps a more well to do, older crowd would respond better to a mysterious image of a porcelain mask and champagne heralding their Mardi Gras celebration; while someone just looking for a boisterous good time might want to see less restrained images, with piles of beads and excessive décor.
As a designer, one has to determine what voice to speak in to reach a desired audience. This is what I’m out to learn about New Orleans Mardi Gras. I’ve seen a bit of how Mardi Gras is sold, but I feel I must experience all aspects of the event to be able to determine what methods are valid and what are not, and to be ready in the future to sell it if need be.
I have already witnessed a streetcar full of masked revelers, costumed drunks hanging out of the windows and tossing out beads. I’ve heard talk of Krewes, and exclusive parties and balls, prices ranging in the hundreds for entrance. The few floats and parades I’ve seen have been decadent, chaotic crowds circling around. And of course I’ve experienced the madness of Bourbon St. I’m expecting some combination of the above elements.
Check back up with me next month for a new perspective after the festivities have passed.