Launched in 2006, Spotify is (if not the biggest, at least) the most popular music streaming service today, offering over 30 million songs from leading labels including Sony, EMI, Warner Music Group, and Universal to more than 15 million paying subscribers and 60 million users overall. With the service growing exponentially in recent years, Spotify’s brand has gone from being merely an app icon on a mobile device to having to function as a — pardon the jargon — multiple touchpoint brand, promoting its services and content everywhere from its own app to across social media to live events. Spotify updated its logo in 2013 and has since doubled down on the black and green color palette, creating everything in that scheme. This month, that changes, as they have begun rolling out a new visual expression (same logo) designed by New York, NY-based Collins.
Fast Company has a comprehensive article on the new look with more insight from the Collins team that’s worth reading.
The previous look was acceptable. It was consistent for sure and could have probably kept on going as it was for years to come. As a very light user of Spotify I have rarely even considered its identity or presence away from the desktop app; as long as I can distinguish between its icon and the dozen other things on my dock, I’m a satisfied customer. But for the 6-million-plus people who have Liked Spotify on Facebook or the 85,000-plus followers on Instagram having a more identifiable house style is going to go a long way as new posts show up in their timelines and feeds.
When a song profoundly resonates with you, what happens? You cry. You cheer. You scream. You laugh. Or, as we put it, you burst with emotion. Our brand identity system aimed to be the visual corollary to this “bursting” experience. We also designed a co-creative aspect into the system to enable Spotify to collaborate with artists.
One of the trickiest issues for the team was how to deal with photography. Since Spotify uses images borrowed from thousands of musical acts, it needed a way to brand a picture so that it looked like something from Spotify even if the company’s logo wasn’t plastered on it.
The answer came from a deep dive into music history, in the duotone photos from album covers and concert posters from the 1960s. That style originated with bands that were trying to find a low-budget way to promote their concerts.
The duotone look became so much a part of the brand identity, that Brett Renfer, Collins’s director of experience design, created a software program (subsequently nicknamed, “The Colorizer”) to automate the process—a critical issue for a company like Spotify which has designers across 58 markets, from Andorra to Uruguay, all scrambling to brand content with the Spotify look.
The great breakthrough in this system is the acknowledgment that Spotify has to work with the same artist- or label-provided images as iTunes, Rdio, Vevo, and the rest of the media so establishing an identity that can reinterpret those images into a consistent visual expression and recognizable style is a major step in differentiating Spotify from the rest. The duotone approach isn’t the most novel visual idea but when applied to cool-looking people it has an undeniably attractive effect. Pairing it with dots and thundery graphics that are layered in front and behind the subject takes one step up. It’s nothing revolutionary but it’s definitely a visually enjoyable system. One other thing this does is point out how uncool Spotify’s logo is; even with all the pretty colors it now comes in, it still manages to look bland with its flat streaming lines among the cool images. Maybe on the next brand update.
Thanks to September Edelen for the tip.