Opened in 1973, the Sydney Opera House, designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, is one of the most iconic buildings in the world and serves as a multi-venue performing arts centre in Sydney, Australia. It is home to four resident companies: Opera Australia, The Australian Ballet, the Sydney Theatre Company, and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and stages more than 1,600 performances a year to over 1 million audience members, which is a fraction of the amount of visitors it receives outside. More than 8 million a year. A new identity — the logo remains the same — aims to bring some of that massive potential audience inside for the performances. It has been designed by the Sydney office of Interbrand in collaboration with Collider for motion work and Studio Laurenz Brunner (who designed Akkurat and Circular) for typography.
[We] created Shifting Perspectives — a brand idea that inspires conversation around culture and art, and helps visitors understand there’s more to the Sydney Opera House than opera. Paired with Shifting Perspectives is a sculptural form language. Sails are used to draw attention and interact with photography, while the 3D Utzon typeface reflects the contours of the building itself. Together, they complement the content of any show poster or message, before bringing the focus back to the master brand.
The motion elements [draw] on the sculptural direction of the hero brand system and many of Jørn Utzon’s forms and methods.
From eight primary ‘moving sculptures’, over 30 animated sequences were created for the in-house team at SOH to use across all future motion outcomes. Additionally, a complete motion guideline was created including supers, transitions, straps and bugs. The main SOH ID sequence was also revisited in two colourways and three durations to replace the original shells reveal motion ident.
There are two parts to this project: The motion work above, and the typographic work below. We’ll start with the motion because pretty. The structure of the motion work literally revolves around the building’s logo — by the way, can someone confirm who designed it? Frost*? — which, obviously revolves around the building’s iconic domes that have beautiful natural shading that informs the visual tone of the animation. Revealing structural shapes amidst flat fields of color, the motion work is subtle yet dynamic and surprising with some absolutely stunning moments and animation behaviors. I’m not sure how much air play this part of the project actually gets on Australian TV or online but I hope the Opera House takes advantage of it because it’s jaw-dropping.
Utzon — named after the Sydney Opera House’s visionary architect, Jørn Utzon — is our display typeface. Built in an engineering program by acclaimed Swiss typographer Laurenz Brunner, it has all the structural integrity and detail it needs to be rebuilt in real life, and even 3D printed.
The second part is based on a sculptural rendering of Circular, named Utzon. Depending on your penchant for 3D typography this will be great or terrible. I have always loved dimensional typography and this is particularly enchanting in its off-balance approach. It’s a chiseled effect but it’s not symmetric within each letter and sometimes gives off a Mobius Strip-like illusion. You would think the letters are not physically possible but, lo and behold, they can be 3D-printed or built as actual things. The tone-on-tone shading works in unison with the motion work to establish, well, a consistent tone.
The best part? With the help of a custom-made InDesign script, anyone working with the Sydney Opera House can easily turn type into Utzon, too. Just plug your copy in, click the generate button, and let the script work its magic. It means while our typeface is visually striking, it’s also incredibly practical.
In application, the typography works best against black backgrounds, which amplify the dimensional effect and looks elegant and sophisticated. At the same time, it works well on the brighter colored backgrounds and fares pretty good when paired with humans. I like how they have also established two different flavors for its use: When it’s all uppercase, the letters are spread wide apart, letting them stand on its own; and when it’s title case, they are typeset normally, and have a subtler presence. Overall, I don’t know if this work will have a direct influence in bringing people inside the Opera House but it helps create a visual link between the building and the communication, so at least the segue from taking a selfie outside to sitting inside will be more natural.
Thanks to Lachie Mason for the tip.