Look at this new Sonos logo. It radiates with energy. But do you notice anything else? No? Try scrolling up and down on the page. There you go. Ingenious, right? It looks like soundwaves emit straight from its core. It’s sound branding that lays down a visual beat, an effect so cool that the logo got tweeted by the Verge and went viral. And branding never goes viral—well, at least not in a good way.
Who would have thunk, it wasn’t a planned optical illusion, but what the design team calls a "happy accident."
"No real scientific data went into initial ideation," explains Laura Stein, creative director from Bruce Mau Design, a consulting firm on Sonos’s rebranding. "It was meant to be a logo in motion, something radiating, something happening."
In fact, it was really meant to demonstrate the idea of amplification—the thematic anchor around Sonos’s new rebranding. Sonos has been a beloved purveyor of wireless speakers for a long time, but the company has been aggressively positioning itself as something much bigger—the umbrella to all cloud music services. Sonos's mobile app manages other apps like Spotify and Pandora in concert. And since hiring Microsoft's former head of Xbox last year, Marc Whitten, to head Sonos products, the possibilities for the company seem bright.
So an explosive logo make a lot of sense to capture the new energy at Sonos. The sharp lines were meant to represent high-fidelity sound, emanating from an updated Sonos wordmark that had been made bolder to hold its own in colorful contexts. But designers on the project noticed a cool side effect during development. When they scrolled up and down, the logo created an animation. You could see a waveform inside the lines. Once they spotted this effect, the designers polished the design to—no pun intended—amplify it.
"We didn’t know people were going to notice it so prominently," admits Webb Blevins, vice president of brand design for Sonos. "We’ve done quite a bit of animation studies making that more prominent, but I thought, personally, it was going to go unnoticed."
This sonic burst logo—what Sonos calls "the amplification mark"—is one of three new tools in Sonos’s updated branding arsenal to play off of the theme of an amplified experience. The second is what they’ve dubbed the modular mark. It’s a repetition of the SONOS wordmark—and the fact that it’s a palindrome—so it reads SONOSONOSONOSONOSONOS. The wordmark becomes infinitely expandable, and shapeable for various media, be it set like a paragraph on a T-shirt, or set in one long line on the side of a subway car.
The third amplification tool is the color gradient—or maybe more accurately, a color gradient. Sonos, as a brand, has no defining colors. Its devices have typically come in white or black, much like its wordmark. So the gradient isn’t just a shift from one brand color to another brand color. It’s a shift from any color to any other color. The idea? To capture the feeling of "transformation," explains Stein, as if the brand is evolving in front of your eyes. So what’s that have to do with "amplification?" The gradient of color across their branding makes everything feel bigger, as if it’s covering more visual ground. And it’s temporal, as if something else big is just about to happen.
I guess we’ll see if Sonos can deliver on the promise from here.