COLLINS’ New Identity for the San Francisco Symphony Brings the Noise

Posted inBranding & Identity Design
Thumbnail for COLLINS' New Identity for the San Francisco Symphony Brings the Noise

Does classical music have a PR problem?

Well, that depends on who you’re talking to, really. If anything, more people are listening to classical music than you might think. At the start of the pandemic, more folks were tuning into classical music on Spotify. In the UK, a study commissioned by Deezer, BPI, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra saw that 18-25-year-olds make up a third of all classical streamers, and those numbers are continuing to rise.

Still, the world of classical music can feel out of step and more than a little musty, conjuring images of pinkie-out drinks and monied elites. The San Francisco Symphony really wants you to know that this isn’t the case, and they’ve partnered with design agency COLLINS to not only celebrate that classical music is a vital art form but help define what the organization’s mission is.

By working with the musicians, staff, and symphony audiences, the collaboration emphasized experimentation in figuring out how to reinvigorate their identity and shape their future. Using a responsive visual system, they bring the very nature of classical music to the fold. The typography itself leans into how we experienced classical music as children—waving our hands about frantically as a composition crescendos, lending a vibrant quality to the new identity. A variable font dominates the overall look, and the modern color palette finds inspiration in the SF Symphony's Bay Area surroundings, firmly grounding the black and white typographic character.

What’s more, they also developed the Symphosizer, an interactive tool that adds a visual layer to your classical mix on Spotify. Just turn the music up loud, and the Symphosizer will respond to the dynamic qualities of the music as type swells and grows on the screen. It might not beat the visualizer you and your stoney pals would watch back in college while listening to some pretty horrific EDM or Darkstar boots, but it will do.

And, you know, it’s also a pretty cool thing for your kids to fiddle around with.

“At its heart, classical music is an interactive experience,” explains COLLINS Creative Director Louis Mikolay in a press release. “Because there are no lyrics, every listener is open to interpret the music in their own way. The Symphosizer enhances this idea by inviting you to explore a completely personal emotional journey during a performance. The motion of the letterforms symbolizes the emotional expressions of the piece itself, uplifting layers and details in the music which may have previously gone unnoticed. This brings a new depth to that personal journey.”

“It’s true that the origins of classical music are hundreds of years old, if not more,” Mikolay continues in the press release. “But the general population doesn't tend to realize that it has been in a constant state of flux since its inception. It has been defining and redefining itself with each generation – even woven into movie scores, video games, and beyond. Classical music has an incredible amount to offer all of us, especially in such a stressful time. We have been honored to work with the multi-talented teams at The San Francisco Symphony to help broaden its relevance in the modern world.”