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I was talking to a client about music [brand experientiality]—the magnetic nature of the melodic narrative and, intimately, the human attribute of the swing of musical cadence, the ebullience of its expression in the context of human experience. Music and dance—they work together, they come from each other.
Well put, these observations by BigThink and Michael Spitzer, “The oldest record of notated music, the Hurrian “Hymn to Nikkal” [as depicted in a modernist 2020, Syrian interpretation] is more than 3,000 years old [notes on the translation.] But in a sense, our relationship with music is far more ancient than that. As Michael Spitzer, a professor of music at the University of Liverpool, told Big Think, humans have been making and learning to recognize music from the moment our species learned to walk on two legs, creating a predictable beat. Music affects the brain in profound ways. It eases stress by lowering cortisol. It floods the brain with pleasurable neurotransmitters like dopamine. And it serves as a conduit through which we can process emotions that otherwise might not be describable in words.”
The point lies in the character of how music awakens us. My mother is a pianist—and the marvel of watching her mind and touch-based translation of ruled pages with blackened pebbles populating the grid of her musical documents is astonishing.
To branding, I have had a string of exposures that lie embedded in the chromosomal history of our work. Early in our heritage of brand strategy and design performances, I received a call from a mother who was interested in helping her son—who, since that time has become a celebrity in the realm of bluegrass, country and American fiddle craft—he’s an Grammy-winning musician, educator, virtuoso performer, and author; he is Mark O’Connor.
Speaking with him, and her, back then, it was about illustrating the lively character of this human brand’s particularly energetic expertise, a kind of wunderkind of the American fiddle work, which he’s parlayed into a string of other explorations and collaborative performances.
I chose a design pathway that was complex, detailed and layered with outlined artistry, bespoke letter craft to play to the complex virtuosity of O’Connor’s toe-tapping melodies. This rendering parlayed the melodic intertwining and coupled with an “old style” script and hand-wrought medallion for the performer, mingled with a tritone metallic, black and warm grey composite. The flourishes lustrate the swing of the music—which, as I’ll note, becomes an ongoing expression, when I think about music—the swirls are the spin of the song, whirling like the gestures of the orchestral conductor—literally, a conduction of energy, spirit and enlightened experience.
That idea of the swing of musical expression—the wondrous embellishment of song, the structure of the notations, the twirl of the melodies—finds itself evidenced in this long-running quartet branding—built then, still in play today. And, moreover, it found itself extended as a continuing evolution. That comes to design principles in trying to evoke the character of the music itself, an intertwined gesticulation of the vibrations of sound. In the classical tradition—this was drawn with a steel pen on handmade paper. And this is, in a manner, a further evocation of tying musical provenance to a paleographic stance—letterforms from a classical tradition that have the added evidence of a time-related relevance. This art too, was written by hand as a sway to the music itself. Storytelling here.
With a change in venue, the performance regimen evolved—this story became centralized to its geographic character, and an ever-widening community of experiencers—still, here, the key visual mnemonic relates to the swirl of sound in an elegantly disposed evocation.
And, could that energetic character in music be conveyed in another manner—perhaps more percussively, to another framing of sound? In working for Bonnie Raitt—“Longing in Their Hearts,” and CBS records, I was looking at brand design in a vinyl labeling—as in 12”x12”. Listening to her, from the character of her voice to the holism of her performance sonance, I also focused on the interplay of her voice to her guitar work—which has a particular rougher quality, more to that integrative musical narrative—her, Bonnie Raitt, a force of nature. Yes, another Grammy awardee, and
what’s that sound like?
And, as everyone knows, she’s still rolling. The logo-typography is punchy, snapped and quick-moving—my interpretation of Bonnie’s spirit.
Finally, a spin on a street-side promotion—this time for a retail location that gestures to bespoke luxury and the highest lines of state-of-the-art sound equipment—still in play in Seattle and Bellevue with a string of sound waves. In this instance, rendered as a symphonic Fibonacci whorl of flourished vibrations, setwith a locked-in redraw of Helvetica in a compressed and contrastively static logo package.
This thema of the lustration of language in a branding strategy is a long-running exploration by GIRVIN. And it’s tipped from the country-styled Americana legacy of our Mark O’Connor brand packaging, to the Wilson sisters, framed in a ragged sinuosity, and it’s scrawl-drawn, graffitiesque brushwork.
For example, their duo efforts in “Bébé Le Strange” [what’s that sound like?]to the classical integrations of Iglitzin’s Philadelphia String Quartet, to my live demonstrations of literally drawing letters to music.
I listen, I lean, I learn. The larger propositions here, of course, speak to “ch’i,” spirit fire capturing the soulful excellence of brands, their stories, founders and the community that surrounds them.
Music is inherently soulful as a creative activity—and an ancient one, as we note in the beginning. It’s a distinctly human characteristic—something to our walking tap on the earth, our beat, our dance—which is, in itself, another exploration—brand-dance.
S I T V I S V O B I S C U M