The subject of the first post in Brighton Bits, in February 2009, was the rather gloomy appearance of the programme cover. Perhaps, as the Guest Director that year was the distinguished sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor, CBE RA, something enigmatic was only to be expected. In any event his other contributions that year were highly intriguing and made a significant contribution to the Festival's prestige.
This year the Guest Director is Laurie Anderson, an experimental performance artist, composer, musician and film director, so presumably she had no hand in this year's austere cover, apart from providing the photo.
Underwhelming rather than eye-catching, perhaps the design has been dictated by the cost of colour printing.
Apparently 1988 was a rather more 'festive', maybe less cash strapped, year: