Eleanor Street Studios
Eleanor Street Studios is a small, high-powered audio production company in Central Trinidad. Many production companies have genre-specific leanings (some are pop, some are rock and roll, some only do chutney music), and the ESS team was wary of pigeonholing themselves, especially since they had all this expertise and equipment — why be limited at all?
From the interviews we did, I knew that the brand wanted to present itself as edgy, a little ahead-of-the-curve, and, well…not cheap. There are a lot of DIY musicians on tight budgets in Trinidad, and while they may be sympathetic to the cause, being musicians themselves, that wasn’t going to work for their business model. Of course, this doesn’t mean that it needed to be exclusionary, and I decided that it would be good if they could at least present as very focused professionals; this meant that the DIY musicians who understood their value would be willing to invest in their services. All we had to do was make sure the quality (and its reflection in the brand) matched that.
My early references were digital music equipment, of course. I knew that I wanted something that had rhythm, something with some life. The movement of these readouts always held a little fascination with me, so maybe that was the easy gravitation.
The first iterations were to be expected; for me, usually I reserve some time to approaching the most deadpan, obvious solution to the problem, even if it may be paltry or not completely thought through. I think of it as the worst I’d allow the design to get, and that as long as I’m doing the basics, I could always push the solution further.
I knew though, that black and white was the way to go for this. Apart from the immediate benefit of standing out among the current competitive landscape, which featured mostly primary colours and lots of layers. Lots.
Less immediately, black and white is the colour of music composition, which is an aspect of the musical experience that is less about the audience and more about the artist, it’s about fine tuning notes to perfection, there’s only a right or wrong way to do that.
I was stuck though, with finding a symbol. I decided to base it on a grid of five lines, splitting these lines with uniform spaces, and worked with some iterations, but wasn’t satisfied that it was cool enough.
I figured I could animate this, pop out a few different business cards (since it was based on a pattern with loads of iterative possibilities) and send it through, but the satisfaction of having hit the mark wasn’t there, so I started looking again at music, and the visual rhythm that’s represented in sheet music and guitar tabs.
That was what was missing: rhythm; I had the illusion of rhythm, sure, but it was forced. the grey bars needed to be there to legitimise the design — that’s not very as little design as possible, is it? I went back to sheet music and noticed the rhythm comes from the empty spaces, and revised my approach:
I decided that I’d use this style, with more deliberate breaks and a patterning that more closely reflected sheet music or guitar tabs. I directly ripped off some sheet music in the first rounds, before I got into the hang of it.
I was pretty sold on a grotesque sans for a lot of reasons, but wanted something with a little bite. I chose Gira Sans, and tracked it out. The early iterations made the brand feel a little too pedestrian, and the open tracking made it feel freer, and more top-shelf, which was important.
There were pretty obvious opportunities for motion, and I thought the movement of levels adjustment equipment would have been nice — speaking to a constant fine tuning.
The nature of the identity also shaped up to one that could be really flexible, so there were nice opportunities to, for example, have different iterations of the symbol on different line items such as letterheads and business cards, which could be individualised to each person.
I’m working on the website now, so there’s more to come.
Aaaaaaaaaand I’m done.
I decided in the end to use Drawbot to complete the brand assets for ESS. The file sizes exported from After Effects were making web use a little unwieldy, plus getting new, randomised iterations in motion was going to be a huge pain in the ass, and I wasn’t okay with planning randomness in so many instances.
The base code is available on Github, at least enough to get your head into how it’s made, if you’re into that. Will write up an example for the Drawbot forum, and link here when I’m done with it.