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Looking back on vintage Bumbershoot design from the 1970s to the 2010s

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Here’s what Bumbershoot used to look like

A row of upside down umbrellas mounted on a wire above a lawn and large fountain.
Bumbershoot 2004.
Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, item No. 170193

Every year, as Labor Day approaches, you hear it from longtime locals: variants of “I remember when Bumbershoot cost $5.”

Bumbershoot started out as a municipal affair to keep the city’s morale up in the wake of the Boeing bust, the brainchild of then-mayor Wes Uhlman. Originally called Festival ’71 (and, the next year, Festival ’72), it got the Bumbershoot name in 1973. It was always popular, too—its first year, it drew 125,000 people over three days. By that third year, 200,000 attendees gathered over five days.

As the festival has grown, so has its visual identity. During the 1970s, it settled into variations on a rainbow umbrella. In the 1980s, annual themes emerged. Then in the 2000s, it started to take on a look similar to other major events throughout the country as it solidified its place in the big-name festival circuit.

Here’s a look at the festival’s design over nearly half a century.

1970s: Festival beginnings

After Bumbershoot got its name, it got its umbrella, although slightly different every year. At this point, Bumbershoot was pushing less the individual acts themselves as much as a community celebration—see musical acts, theater, and visual arts in one place, bring the kids.

Also: It was free, save for the occasional ticketed event within the festival.

A black-and-white logo. On a black background, an umbrella with a rainbow-like striped design and raindrops coming down on it. There’s grass below, and the text BUMBERSHOOT lines the top of the umbrella.
A Bumbershoot logo from the 1970s.
Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives
A man with gray hair, a brown mustache, and a gray suit speaks at a podium with a sign attached with a rainbow and the text “74 BUMBERSHOOT 74.”
Then-Seattle mayor Wes Uhlman speaks behind a Bumbershoot 1974 logo by a globe display.
Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, item No. 77469
A full-page ad lists festival attractions. Title BUMBERSHOOT at the top, subheaders VACATION AT HOME THIS SUMMER AND EXPERIENCE 74 ACRES OF ADVENTURE, MUSIC, DRAMA, ARTS & CRAFTS, DANCE, and FOR KIDS.
An ad for Bumbershoot 1974, then a 10-day festival, that originally appeared in Seafair Magazine.
Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives
A black-and-white certificate with a simple border and a picture of a rainbow emerging from grass on top that reads in calligraphy, “In appreciation of,” then “for contributing toward the quality, breadth, & success of the City of Seattle’s arts &
A certificate from the mayor’s office acknowledging contributions to the 1975 festival, then a city-run affair.
Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives
A blue page has a logo with rainbow over grass that reads “Seattle Arts Festival BUMBERSHOOT” at the top, and “1975 GUIDE BOOK” in large text below.
The cover of the 1975 guidebook, complete with the grassy rainbow design.
Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives

1980s and 1990s: A growing event

In 1980, One Reel took over the festival’s operations—and still runs the festival today. It was also the first year Bumbershoot cost money, at $2.50 a head for adults (still free for youths and seniors) with a free Friday. In 1985, One Reel’s role was briefly called into question when Seattle Center tried to take over, but ultimately the city retained the group’s services.

One Reel’s first festival riffed on the visuals of the 1970s festivals, but each year eventually took on its own theme and branding. During this time, Bumbershoot grew from being a general local arts event to a bigger destination with big-name draws, although it maintained its local touch with features like a literary magazine.

By 1999, admission was still just $10 per day in advance ($14 at the gate, $32 for a four-day pass), with acts like Cake, Black Eyed Peas, the Violent Femmes, and Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt.

A rainbow-like design is black and white except for a green band on top. Below, grass is largely black and white except for a green blade at the front. Below, text reads “Seattle Arts Festival 1980 BUMBERSHOOT.”
Bumbershoot’s 1980 logo still worked with the festival’s long-running rainbow design.
Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives
A blue and gray logo says BUMBERSHOOT diagonally up the center, with a banner at top and bottom that says “Greetings From Seattle Center.”
Bumbershoot’s logo in 1983.
Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives
A yellow poster has a rectangle of an abstract design up top, and a logo that reads “BUMBERSHOOT” in red text with an abstract Space Needle below, then a list of artists in small print at the bottom.
One Reel eventually moved away from the rainbow design, like with this poster from 1987 advertising acts that include Miles Davis, Etta James, Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, Crowded House, Gregg Allman, Big Brother & the Holding Co., and K. D. Lang.
Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives
On a black, starry background, a red and blue BUMBERSHOOT logo sits on top of a blue-lined starburst and a series of red rings. In the bottom right, a rectangle box reads “OFFICIAL SCHEDULE OF EVENTS 1993.”
The cover of a festival schedule from 1993, this time with a spacey starburst design.
Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives

The 2000s and 2010s: A major music festival

While each year had its own distinct, visual theme, posters emphasized musical acts more and more in a poster format that’s now extremely familiar for not just Bumbershoot, but other festivals throughout the country like Coachella: a straightforward list of acts ordered by draw. Headers still emphasize the multidisciplinary nature of the festival, though—leading with music with sections for comedy, literary, and other acts. Increasingly, the art framing the list of acts became both whimsical and scalable, from the little monster mascots of 2005 to this year’s undersea look.

This time period saw the most rapid escalation of event costs, growing from $12 to $16 a day in 2001 and $22 to $40 a day in 2010 to $109 for daily general admission in 2019.

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