Sharing the magic of music.
How Carnegie Hall modernized its 130-year-old brand to serve new audiences.
Photo by Chris Lee.
creative pieces produced annually
of file management errors eliminated
and modern brand delivered across experiences with digital, web-based brand book
“We build from our roots, which are the extraordinary history and heritage of the Hall, but always keep our eyes on the future, seeking to ensure that Carnegie Hall makes the greatest and most inspirational contribution to people’s lives.”
Executive and Artistic Director, Carnegie Hall
Rooted in history, with eyes on the future
Music is in Clive Gillinson’s blood. His mother was a professional cellist, inspiring Gillinson’s own early musical career. But Gillinson found his true home when he made the leap to music management, where an understanding of music, finances, and marketing is essential.
When Gillinson was named Executive and Artistic Director for Carnegie Hall, he was honored by the opportunity to run one of the world’s premier arts venues. He spent months asking questions, getting to know the organization, and learning about the history, culture, and roots of the 130-year-old institution. But it was another historic New York landmark that helped inspire his vision for the future.
“One of the first places I visited when I came to New York was the American Museum of Natural History,” says Gillinson. “When I entered the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda, I was struck by one quote in particular: ‘Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.’ For me, that quote embodies the spirit of Carnegie Hall. We build from our roots, which are the extraordinary history and heritage of the Hall, but always keep our eyes on the future, seeking to ensure that Carnegie Hall makes the greatest and most inspirational contribution to people’s lives.”
Carnegie Hall connects with communities worldwide, including through events and programs for children to engage with music in new ways. Photo by Chris Lee.
Expanding ways to reach audiences through music
Ask people about Carnegie Hall and they will likely talk about a grand hall where people listen to the classics and reminisce about iconic performers from the past. But Carnegie Hall is much more than that. Over the years, it has hosted debut performances of visionary orchestral compositions and carried forward a commitment to commissioning new works from artists across all genres of music. Suffragettes and civil rights leaders have stood on the stage to give speeches that changed the world. From Duke Ellington to Johnny Cash, The Beatles to Davie Bowie, some of the most popular artists across genres have played on the Carnegie Hall stage to countless numbers of adoring fans.
“At its core, Carnegie Hall is about bringing together the greatest musicians and music in the world, and then finding a way to share them as widely as possible,” says Gillinson. “When I arrived at Carnegie Hall, I felt that I was in the presence of a sleeping giant. It’s such an extraordinary place, but there was so much untapped potential.”
Under the leadership of Gillinson, Carnegie Hall has expanded its reach to communities across New York and around the world. Today Carnegie Hall might present a jazz concert one night and host a film premiere the next. The audience might be adults ready for a night of raucous stand-up comedy or crowds of excited children ready to experience music in person for the first time.
Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute has grown tremendously with education and social impact programs that reach more than 800,000 people every year. There’s Link Up, the Hall’s longest-running music education program, which delivers hands-on music education through partner orchestras around the United States and worldwide. The Lullaby Project connects new and expecting parents with professional musicians to create and perform personal lullabies for their newborns, supporting maternal health while strengthening the bond between parent and child. Musical Connections works with men at Sing Sing Correctional Facility to build a sense of identity and hope through music.
That’s just a fraction of the programs delivered by Carnegie Hall. In recent years, Carnegie Hall has increased the use of its digital channels to reach even more people around the world. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Carnegie Hall rapidly expanded the number of digital programs to entertain and educate parents, families, and music fans alike who suddenly found themselves stuck at home. According to Gillinson, many of these programs are here to stay.
“There’s nothing quite like the magic of experiencing music in person, but digital will remain a central and complementary part of what we do to reach eager audiences who may never have the opportunity to visit Carnegie Hall,” he says.
Two of the Hall's initiatives — the free Carnegie Hall Citywide concert series and sample art for Migrations, one of the Hall's annual citywide festivals — showcase the new branding.
Updating visuals to capture an evolving brand
Carnegie Hall is one of the busiest concert venues in the world with close to 700 events presented by the Hall and visiting presenters on its three stages each season. The creative services team supports the Hall’s extensive line-up of events and program offerings with more than 2,000 creative pieces a year, from digital marketing campaigns to printed programs distributed to audiences. Designers started to raise concerns that while Carnegie Hall has grown and evolved significantly over the past decade, the brand hadn’t. The Carnegie Hall logo had not been updated significantly since the late ‘80s.
Chief Marketing Officer Sara Villagio reached out to Champions Design for help with developing a thoughtful brand evolution rooted in telling the stories behind the curtain. Ultimately, Champions Design was chosen because of their commitment to research and strategy, an essential component to the project's success.
“Carnegie Hall isn’t just a concert producer,” explains Villagio. “We’re educators, fundraisers, media producers, retailers, and much more. We want to be ready to respond to every opportunity to share our music and mission with the public.”
Villagio had several requirements for the new brand. First, the brand toolkit needed to be flexible enough to speak to any audience. The creative services team works with Adobe Creative Cloud apps — including Adobe InDesign, Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe Illustrator — to produce all creative materials. It needed flexible templates, guidelines, and branded assets that could work with all apps to create any type of material for any audience — whether advertising a hip-hop performance aimed at teens or asking for donations from long-time subscribers.
Second, the updated brand needed to hold up across all platforms. While digital platforms are more important than ever to communicate with audiences, the old branding wasn’t built to come across on small screens or social media icons.
“So many people have this false perception that Carnegie Hall is very buttoned-up and elitist,” says Bobby C. Martin, Jr., Founding Partner of Champions Design. “The first performance I saw in Carnegie Hall was a Stevie Wonder singalong. They had these fantastic young musicians playing Stevie’s greatest hits. The whole audience was singing along and it was the most fun you could imagine. For me, that concert really summed up everything that the brand needs to capture: the fun, diversity, and magic of modern-day Carnegie Hall.”
Carnegie Hall offers new opportunities for people to experience all types of music, performed by great musicians. Photo by Chris Lee.
“We needed to reflect the diversity, vision, and magic of Carnegie Hall in a way that will carry the brand into the next 130 years.”
Bobby C. Martin, Jr.
Founding Partner, Champions Design
A rich history of vision, diversity, and magic
Martin and his team at Champions Design started by speaking with the people who make up Carnegie Hall. They talked to staff from across all business areas, musicians, donors, volunteers, students, and educators to capture the Carnegie spirit.
“Carnegie Hall has a proud 130-year-old history, and everyone agreed that we couldn’t lose that important piece of the brand,” says Martin. “But at the same time, we needed to reflect the diversity, vision, and magic of Carnegie Hall in a way that will carry the brand into the next 130 years.”
The new brand takes inspiration from the historic features of Carnegie Hall, updated for a modern age. The highlight is the new Carnegie Hall logo inspired by the architecture of the building. Large poster cases circle the perimeter of main venue. Atop each poster case is a stained-glass feature with “CARNEGIE HALL” written in bold blue. Champions design team, along with Frere-Jones Type, updated this iconic wordmark to create a modern, but familiar, logo.
While Carnegie Hall typically uses its full name in marketing and visuals, Champions created a simple CH monogram that is ideal for mobile, social media, and other small spaces. The curving script of the monogram is also based on an important piece of history: the lettering used to emboss the name “CARNEGIE” on the original steel beams of Carnegie Hall. The monogram adds flexibility to the brand by giving digital designers small logos that pop on screens of any size.
New mobile promotions showcasing the new brand for the 2021-2022 Carnegie Hall season.
Carnegie Hall merchandise featuring the new monogram logo.
Delivering living toolkits for flexibility and speed
Champions workshopped design directions with Carnegie Hall over the course of months to expand the brand into a cohesive, structured toolkit that maintains high flexibility for all of the brand’s diverse needs. When developing the brand guidelines with the Carnegie Hall creative services team, Champions took an innovative and modern approach by using Adobe XD. With Adobe XD, Champions created a living, sharable brand book that is always up-to-date and available to those who need it.
“Having a brand book built in Adobe XD is such a help for us,” says Villagio. “Many projects begin with our graphic design team of five, but we often need to share branding with the larger creative services team, partners, or media agencies. With Adobe XD, we know that everyone is working from the same starting point.”
The design team gathered all approved colors, fonts, logos, and other assets into sharable Creative Cloud Libraries. They can make updates to the libraries, such as adjust templates or add seasonal colors, and Carnegie Hall designers can see the changes immediately. Previously designers might have worked directly with Champions for every new event. But now designers have a solid visual foundation at their fingertips through the brand system created with Adobe XD. They can access libraries through their most frequently used Adobe Creative Cloud apps and find all approved assets with just a few clicks. The result is reduced file management errors and a faster, more efficient workflow so that creators can focus on delivering just the right message.
“Having consistent design is an important way to create a visual cue that people are experiencing something — a concert, an online program, or an outreach event — through Carnegie Hall,” says Villagio. “The unified design provides context for a larger conversation about the diverse ways that we can share and discover the world around us through music.”
“The unified design provides context for a larger conversation about the diverse ways that we can share and discover the world around us through music.”
Chief Marketing Officer, Carnegie Hall
Founded in 1891, Carnegie Hall’s iconic brand is world renown. The new logo takes inspiration from the stained glass lettering that decorates the poster cases outside the Hall on Seventh Avenue.
Carnegie Hall partnered with New York City-based Champions Design to create a new visual identity. Champions used a variety of Adobe tools to bring Carnegie Hall’s new brand to life, including using Adobe XD to prototype designs and create a shareable brand book.
The comprehensive brand book defines use of the new branding across all communications tools, promotional materials, and online platforms for a consistent and unified design approach.
“In everything we do, we have to aspire to offer extraordinary and inspiring experiences. The new rebrand personifies everything that we believe Carnegie Hall can be — magical, diverse, and visionary — and helps us better communicate our mission with audiences everywhere.”
Executive and Artistic Director, Carnegie Hall
Extraordinary design and experiences
No matter whether Carnegie Hall is hosting audiences gathered within its walls to share in a memorable night or sharing online resources to help children grow and learn through music, Carnegie Hall remains true to its vision of finding ways to help music play a role in people’s lives.
“To me, Carnegie Hall is the greatest concert hall in the world,” says Gillinson. “That carries with it a huge opportunity, but also a great responsibility. In everything we do, we have to aspire to offer extraordinary and inspiring experiences. The new rebrand personifies everything that we believe Carnegie Hall can be — magical, diverse, and visionary — and helps us better communicate our mission with audiences everywhere.”
Photo by Bernard Hallstein.