Instances have been altering at the San Francisco Symphony. Michael Tilson Thomas, the orchestra’s music director of 25 years, stepped away from his position in 2020. In got here revolutionary Finnish conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen. And with him got here the want for new branding that mirrored the symphony’s subsequent act.
The orchestra tapped New York design company Collins for the rebrand, giving it a mission to showcase SFS as the “orchestra of now,” in response to SFS artistic director Larry Williams. Key to this was establishing SFS as a spot of innovation and correcting for classical music’s notion downside: that “classical” equals dusty, static, and historic, not up to date.
The Collins workforce, led by artistic director Louis Mikolay, created a type-forward new model that’s decidedly up to date and dynamic, with an elongated serif typeface that, like music, shifts primarily based on temper, context, and medium. The modernized model is extra pleasant and accessible, widening the tent by focusing on not simply youthful audiences, however an array of music aficionados, whether or not classical followers or not.
The necessity for a model refresh speaks to a longstanding pattern of orchestra audiences skewing older. The typical age of audiences at the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic was 57, in response to The New York Instances. With the introduction of Salonen, the San Francisco Symphony is introducing an “completely new blueprint for contemporary symphonic music,” in response to a spokesperson, which features a new management mannequin fabricated from eight companions. You don’t must know classical music to know all of their names: Bryce Dressner of indie rock band the Nationwide, synthetic intelligence entrepreneur Carol Reiley, bassist Esperanza Spalding, classical vocalist Julia Bullock, experimental flutist Claire Chase, violinist Pekka Kuusisto, and composer and pianist Nicholas Britell.
The trendy strategy performs out in its new look, which patrons will see on every thing from posters outdoors the field workplace to tickets to the web site and social media. The static typeface of yesteryear, which appears to be like the similar irrespective of the place it’s utilized, is gone. Instead is a new customized, variable typeface referred to as “ABC Symphony” that evokes the sensation of singing. The typeface “has all the qualities of conventional classical music: sophistication, class, slight grandeur,” says Mikolay, however with a key distinction: The workforce gave it a recent conduct, so “it could react, stretch, and skew and bend in response to sound.” Letters in the similar phrase may be incrementally shortened or attenuated, so the emblem, which reads “SF SYMPHONY,” arcs from left to proper like a crescendo. Some phrases lean forcefully to the proper for emphasis, like a pianist taking part in forte.
The colour palette is playful too and expands from the basic black and white to sandy off-white and olive inexperienced, vibrant pinks, aubergine, okra, and electrical yellows and limes, all impressed by the colours of San Francisco. The secondary shade palette is so broad that it’s straightforward to make your individual associations with different music genres—the vivid yellows and oranges jogged my memory of the psychedelic rock posters by designers reminiscent of David Byrd and Victor Moscoso at the ’60s-era Fillmore East. The Symphony+ logo appeared to evoke Madonna’s namesake album. Once I requested Milokay about these associations, he says they weren’t sources of inspiration for the identification itself—they took extra inspiration from the branding flexibility of different up to date artwork establishments, reminiscent of London’s Tate Museum or the Whitney.
And so they knew what they didn’t need it to evoke: the grandeur and old-school really feel of unique, massive European symphonies. “It was a deliberate transfer to not go wherever close to that, and say that is San Francisco, that is the place that’s reinventing the world yearly or month-to-month nearly, and we have to really feel like that—in a manner that doesn’t alienate all these current audiences and in a manner that may be taken severely by the international classical music scene.” (Some longstanding establishments, like the Paris Opera, New York Philharmonic, and Boston Symphony are additionally introducing new approaches to programming to get youthful and extra various viewers members in seats.”)
The model additionally features a digital instrument referred to as a “Symphosizer.” The interactive audio instrument lets you mess around with the kind your self by typing phrases that change in dimension and form relying on how loudly you communicate. It’s presently obtainable on Collins’s web site, however it can even be a instrument for the San Francisco Symphony artistic workforce to construct content material of their very own in the future.
In all, the rebrand is a stability of the conventional and timeless, in response to Milokay. The model is recent sufficient to have outdoors audiences give it one other look, however acquainted sufficient to maintain these season ticket holders of their seats. Finally, the onboarding of a new musical director meant a new alternative for the symphony to broaden its enchantment—and perhaps give classical music a contemporary hit.