Carnegie Hall Rebrands With Help From Champions Design

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Carnegie Hall is known for showcasing some of the greatest musical talents in the world.

Well, that and practice.

Studio Champions Design worked with the in-house team at Carnegie Hall to create a new branding system that would showcase the institution's world of musical consciousness. The new identity system seeps with emotion, charm, and musical fortitude due to the typography, color palette, and imagery. Not only is the branding system perfectly modern, it's timeless in that it will continue to stay relevant for years to come.

Carnegie Hall is synonymous with music. The Hall’s legacy of excellence in programming and world-renowned acoustics make it the most admired performance venue in the world, giving great significance to an artist’s “Carnegie Hall debut.”

Champions worked closely with the in-house Marketing and Creative Services teams to update the brand in order to help bring the transformative power of music to as many people in as many places as possible. The goal was to make everyone feel welcomed in the Hall without compromising on its standard of excellence.

Carnegie Hall celebrates its 130th anniversary in 2021. The venue’s long history brings with it a culture of storytelling and a museum-worthy visual archive. The new identity celebrates the past and readies for the future by assembling a graphic toolkit now prepared to stand the test of time.

In 1919, Carnegie Hall’s architect, William Burnet Tuthill, engineered the iconic facade that makes the Hall what it is today, including the large poster cases around the building’s perimeter featuring “electrically lit stained glass canopies.” The Hall’s most recognizable asset is its name. A wordmark – this wordmark – was the only logo solution that made sense.

Champions worked with Frere-Jones Type to create a wordmark that incorporates the distinctive features of the poster case lettering and is also optimized for present-day needs.

C – Upper terminal extends into negative space created by the diagonals of the A and the terminals share a common angle.

A – The apex serif is softened, crossbar lowered, and outer serifs are shortened to create a more even overall color.

R – The leg descends below the baseline, and the serif is trimmed to allow for a better relationship with the following letterform.

The challenge and opportunity of branding a destination is that there’s no faking the intersection of 57th Street and 7th Avenue in New York City. The design must deliver the experience authentically, every time.

Red carries forward existing brand equity. Rose harkens back to the Hall’s founding and the original color of the seats in Stern Auditorium. And Blue incorporates the brilliant color of the stained glass lettering. Together the palette has been optimized to meet strict standards for accessibility and consistency across platforms and mediums, as well as alignment with the real world experience of the place.

Fournier is a classic serif typeface that delivers what people expect from Carnegie Hall. In contrast, Cadiz is simple and modern, but shares a handful of similarities with Fournier, such as the “W.” The combination of these two typefaces in the wide variety of weights available supports the diversity of programming put forth by the Hall. Together they can talk about classical music, jazz, hip hop, music education, and social impact programs, and all that the Hall presents.

Digital deliverables give us the opportunity to make the magical type literally dance and nothing could be more meaningful to the best performance venue in the world. The primary behavior is left to right movement, a relentless forward momentum appropriate to the Hall’s visionary spirit.

As with type, layout needs to support the diversity of programming put forth by the Hall and also deliver a little musicality. A simple grid, flat color, high-contrast text, and hyper-focus on performer imagery are the ingredients. Cropping turns up or tunes down energy, excitement, and expression. A flexible wordmark allows for dramatic contrast in scale. And that magical type brings the emotion. Taken together, they will keep the brand fresh for years to come.

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