• Transform magazine
  • March 01, 2021


Design agency revitalises the classical concert experience

COLLINS SFS 02 Orchestra Full 011621 (C) Brandon Patoc

The San Francisco office of strategy, design, and communications company Collins has partnered with San Francisco Symphony to reimagine the organisation’s brand and mission as a model for the future, affirming that classical music is a relevant and evolving art form and not dusty and unchanging as it is often perceived to be.

The symphony worked with Collins to help clarify, define and express a new vision for its future helping it reassert classical music as a global contemporary art form while staying rooted in the community and strengthening the bonds it has made it so successful for over a century. The design experimentation inspired an evolving visual system that brings to life the dynamic qualities of classical music itself.

Collins created a traditional typography that speaks to the art form’s heritage, giving each typographic character the ability to immediately change from in reaction to sound and music, and also crafted a more expressive voice that juxtaposes the timeless formality of black and white with a contemporary palette inspired by the colours of the Bay Area.

“It’s true that the origins of classical music are hundreds of years old, if not more 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,” says Louis Mikolay, creative director at Collins.


Another central element of the rebrand is the ‘symphosizer,’ an online platform that uses responsive and variable font technology to give users the experience of enjoying a classical concert from the comfort of their homes with an added interactive, visual dimension.

“The Symphosizer invites 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,” adds Mikolay.

As part of the rebrand, the San Francisco Symphony also subverted the hierarchical nature of its organisation and the industry through a D&I-focused organisational overhaul. The new music director, conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen, created an experimental blueprint for the future of symphonic music based on a new leadership model, which includes eight collaborative partners from a variety of cultural disciplines.