Spotify’s brand identity has always been surprisingly sedate: black, white, and an uninspiring green for colors; an off-the-shelf font; and a little stylized sound wave as a logo. On Friday, at South by Southwest, all that will change. For the duration of the festival, Spotify House will be arrayed in a bold and explosively colorful new brand identity, which was the result of a year’s worth of work, and many trips to the company’s Stockholm headquarters, by the New York design firm, Collins.
The goal of the new brand identity was to create a look that would signal to the brand’s core audience of millennials that Spotify was as rich and lively as the music culture it fronted, rather than simply a technology service that served up songs.
“The big shift in helping the company go from looking like a tech company to more of an entertainment brand, was giving them the ability to communicate in much more diverse ways,” says Leland Maschmeyer, Collins’s founding partner and executive creative director. “We wanted something that was wildly diverse, but somehow always familiar—and a way to balance that tension.”
“Millennials’ most popular media channel is Instagram, which is pure visuals,” he says. “We knew that whatever we designed had to be identifiable as Spotify’s voice, but could be adopted by the audience as they listened to it, made their playlists, and went to concerts. We needed to create a participatory system.”
The dreary brand palette—with one lone green as its spot of color—was particularly desperate for an upgrade. Its origins, says Tanguay, were utterly arbitrary. “The color was a decision made by our founder (Daniel Ek) about seven years ago for a simple reason: no one else was using that green. Over the years, we have some earned equity with the color, but this green wasn’t modern or fresh.”
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.
“That aesthetic could be applied to lots of different types of photography,” Maschmeyer says. ” So even though the pictures were shot in different styles, and by different photographers, when you put them through that filter, they all hang together.”