Established in 1904, the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) is the oldest symphony orchestra in London and has been the resident orchestra at the Barbican Centre in the City of London since it opened in 1982. The LSO is a self-governing collective, made up of nearly a hundred players, and performs over 120 concerts a year. For its 2017/18 season, which kicks off in September, the LSO will debut their new music director, Sir Simon Rattle, and to coincide with the announcement of the season’s plans, the orchestra has introduced a new identity designed by London-based The Partners, who designed the LSO logo in 2004 (and which remains as is for this identity).
Following an extensive audit, The Partners developed an ambitious and progressive identity inspired by the LSO logo which uses the very same starting point that a concert performance would - the conductor. With Sir Simon Rattle at the very heart of the visual identity, The Partners created a visual language that both depicts the conductor’s movements as he creates and shapes a musical performance, and reflects the emotional power of the performance itself through colour, texture and motion.
Using a motion capture suit and specially modified baton, the setup included twelve top-of-the-range Vicon Vantage cameras capturing movement at 120 frames per second, resulting in incredibly accurate data capture.
Projects that don’t have a logo change have a little less chance to make it on Brand New because we all love logos so much so when it’s only an identity change it has to be something pretty drastic, interesting, and/or a clear change in presentation. I don’t know what the 2016/17 season materials looked like but I am pretty sure they did not look anything like you are about to see below nor that it employed motion capture. Sir Simon Rattle may be no Andy Serkis but he wields a mean baton that serves as the motion data captured by the University of Portsmouth and Vicon Motion Systems to hand off to Tobias Gremmler — his Kung Fu Motion Visualization video is a must watch — to translate into the basis of the identity.
The second stage of the process saw The Partners commissioning and working closely with digital artist Tobias Gremmler who transformed the motion data into a series of an animated films reflecting the emotional qualities of the music. Through Tobias’ creative interpretation, the cacophony of the Orchestra at full force becomes an explosive maelstrom of wood, brass and strings. In quiet and smouldering moments, the LSO string section conjures towers of smoke, and the sweeping gestures of Rattle are rendered in wires reminiscent of the strings on the instruments themselves.
The four different styles in principle have no direct relation to symphonies or what we’ve come to expect of symphonies… they are almost as gratuitous as the late 1990s exploding polygon stuff that was all the rage except that, here, there is a music conductor literally behind it. So, while visually, it seems odd, there is a purpose and a very direct connection. Also, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I saw the video and went “Whoah”.
A typographic approach was developed, consisting of two techniques reflecting the movement of Sir Simon Rattle as he conducts: A fluid movement captures his grand and sweeping gestures; an angular movement captures his more intense and urgent gestures. This technique is applied sparingly to the headline font to express the movement and emotion of the music. Singular words are also split over multiple lines, to further add a sense of movement and rhythm.
The custom typography is equally out there — both as a custom type family for a symphony and as a custom type family, period — with the motion of the baton slicing through the letterforms in a smooth, elegant way, almost like watching marbled paper get made.
As cool as the motion capture looks in animation it doesn’t quite translate into convincing key images for the applications… They are more like one-off interpretations rather than long-term solutions. I do like the energy and explosiveness they convey, much like a symphony piece building to its climax. The custom font over the 3D graphics may be one cool thing too many put together and the overall vibe seems highly experimental which, even without being overly familiar with the LSO, doesn’t strike me as being their main hook. There is also the assumption that the logo — itself an interpretation of a conductor conducting — can play along with this new identity but that’s really not the case as the logo looks completely alien to the identity around it and vice versa. I want to like the resulting applications more than I actually do, simply because it’s a complete detachment from the expectations of what a world-class symphony should look like but, in the end, I think that’s just what this is, a forceful break from conventions too centered on technology and style. Still, I 100% support its daringness and commitment to do something different and perhaps others in the comments (or in the LSO’s audience) will see it in a much more favorable (or at least less apprehensive) light.