San Francisco Symphony: A Harmonic Identity for A Digital Age by Collins
I half-made a promise to myself at the start of this year: that I'd try to focus less on widely-publicised branding projects, and more on the other, more locally-impactful stuff, buuut this recent identity revamp by COLLINS is a corker, so.
The US-based agency sums up the challenge perfectly themselves in that, "‘classical’ music suffers from an ongoing and ruthless PR problem: it is too often perceived as an unchanging, dusty, old-world music for elite audiences only", a sentiment difficult to disagree with for most people.
What is easy empathise with, however, is the ability music has to unite, entertain and inspire, and that each genre should be seen as accessible regardless of its perceived level of status from the outside. "Music is one of humanity’s most powerful creations — it meets us at our emotional center. Like all great art, it both inspires and reflects the times we live in.", writes COLLINS.
So how do you go about making a 108-year old cultural monolith, such as SFS, relevant in a digital age? Well, for a start it begins with a culture shift within the institution itself as Music Director, Michael Tilson Thomas finished his revered 25 year tenure. In his place, a somewhat shock-appointment in Esa–Pekka Salonen, whose task is to reposition the brand and genre for the 21st century. This is where COLLINS steps in.
"COLLINS was invited to help clarify, define and express this new vision for the Symphony, and help them re-assert classical music as a crucial, global contemporary art form — all while staying rooted in our community and strengthening the bonds that have made them so successful for over a century."
The design solution begins with a wide range of collaboration; from board members to audiences, across each facet and viewpoint, finally focussing on a dynamic and ever-evolving system of branding, with digital at its core. The logomark and typeface, for example, is routed in the genre's incredibly rich history, but with a 21st century twist. "we used responsive and variable font technology to add an unexpected contemporary behavior — giving each typographic character the ability to immediately change form in reaction to sound and music."
Regardless of it's application – whether physical or digital – the final outcome oozes contemporary sophistication, reinstating a cultural icon, whilst blowing the dust off a vibrant genre fit for the future.
You can see more imagery and information on COLLINS' website here:
And the San Francisco Symphony website here:
Words: Joe Cooper