“Branding is like a song that resonates deeply.” Discussing music and design with Studio Herrström
A match like no other, working within the worlds of music and design can make for a perfect playground for creatives, offering endless streams of possibility in composition and expression. Studio Herrström, led by experienced creative directors Erik Herrström and Lukas Haider, embodies this unifying and powerful connection. With a combined experience of over 25 years, they have spearheaded impactful campaigns for Spotify, created visually captivating identities for renowned artists, and formed successful partnerships with distinguished record labels. In this in-depth interview, Herrström and Haider take us through the origins, growth, and development of Studio Herrström. They also share their philosophy on designing brands in the music industry and what makes it such a special field to work in.
PT Hi Erik and Lukas, how are you?
EH Hi Poppy, we’re well, thank you! We’re excited about the opportunity to share our story and why we believe creating work that resonates with your audience is more important than ever.
PT For those who are not familiar with Studio Herrström, could you tell us a bit about the studio, and how it came to be?
EH Prior to founding Studio Herrström, I had spent the majority of my career in New York City, designing mainly for Spotify, Nike and Google, both in-house and at agencies.
I’m originally from Sweden, and after nearly a decade in the U.S, love has brought me back to Europe. Ending up in Vienna, I started off freelancing for agencies, where I was embedded in teams, leading brand design work for clients such as Discord, Airbnb and Sony Music. However, I soon found myself in a position where I had established my own vision. This, in combination with enough inbound requests and strong relationships in my network made me take the leap to start my own brand design studio.
PT How has the team grown since you started the studio? What does everybody bring to the team?
EH Since founding Studio Herrström, we have continuously worked with a selected list of creatives. At some point, running the business and leading all creative work by myself became too much, which led me to grow the team and add additional skill sets by hiring Lukas Haider, who now serves as Creative Director and Co-Lead.
Additionally, we've improved our communications and processes by hiring Lindsey Skipworth as Director of Operations. Her team helps us create much more efficient work streams so that we can spend more time on what we’re good at.
PT What motivated the decision to launch a new website?
EH Up until this point, we only had a placeholder website, but as our team has grown and our vision as a studio has become clearer; we wanted to communicate this evolution better.
Just as with music, great branding is able to open up your senses.
PT How would you describe the unique approach or philosophy of Studio Herrström? Also, what sets Studio Herrström apart from other creative studios?
LH At the heart of Studio Herrström lies a deep connection to music. Both of us Creative Directors have dedicated the majority of our careers to the music industry.
This includes leading campaigns and brand initiatives at Spotify, creating visual identities for iconic artists such as Whitney Houston and Elvis Presley for Sony Music, brand identities for music startups such as Sound.xyz, Stage and SONX, as well as partnering with record labels such as TAU by the renowned DJ-duo Adana Twins.
In music, it’s all about being unique and bold to stand out from the crowd. However, what’s often missed in design is the connection between the audience and the brand or the artist – and this is what we’re really passionate about.
To us, branding is like a song that resonates deeply with you. It’s a song that evokes the same emotions every time you put it on. Just as with music, great branding is able to open up your senses and create memorable impressions.
Therefore the combination between the visual and music layer is very impactful. When the two components come together, it has the power to move people, encourage them and spread positive messages.
While we’re based in Vienna, most of our clients are international. For example, some of our upcoming work includes projects for clients in Vietnam, Colombia, and Hong Kong. We believe the world is more global than ever, and we love learning about new cultures and broadening our horizons through the work we do and the people we meet.
At the heart of Studio Herrström lies a deep connection to music.
PT Why do you mostly work with clients in the music and lifestyle sectors? What’s the most interesting thing about working in these fields?
LH We believe that we were originally drawn to music and lifestyle due to the expressiveness of the artists we grew up listening to and brands that existed within our immediate world. We both grew up getting inspired by skateboarding, and how music combined with visual expressions and streetwear blended together to create something larger – we desired to be a part of these worlds.
We believe that in music, having a unique voice, being highly skilled, and releasing good tracks isn’t enough to succeed today. In order to truly make it, you need a robust strategy in combination with a conceptually strong visual identity to deeply resonate with your audience. We see ourselves as design partners in helping brands and artists create these visual worlds.
PT Have you noticed any current, prevalent trends when it comes to designing brands within the music industry? If so, do you try to embrace or subvert these trends?
EH Of course we regularly spot trends within the music industry. In order to create work that stands out, and avoid falling for trends, we strongly believe in ideating core concepts based on the brand strategy, so that all visual ideas originate from the same place. This is what makes the difference.
PT Can you share some examples of how you have helped clients ‘disrupt and break through the clutter’ in their industries?
LH As part of our client portfolio, we work with the record label TAU, founded by the renowned DJ-Duo Adana Twins. Together, we continuously push the boundaries of music release strategies. One notable project is the annual SPEKTRUM series, a music compilation known for its unconventional formats. For instance, we crafted a unique magazine filled with insights and stories from participating artists, designed special collectors’ boxes featuring 3D scanned artworks, and even created a distinctive collection that incorporated Palo Santo wood sticks to enhance the listening experience. These innovations challenged industry norms and provided fans with fresh ways to engage with the various releases.
The secret to reaching your target audience lies in truly understanding your audience.
PT In a busy digital world, how do you adapt and find new ways to help brands reach their target audience?
EH The secret to reaching your target audience lies in truly understanding your audience. We tend to do interviews with the target audience of our clients in order to understand them better. This helps us get insights that we rarely get from speaking directly and only with our clients.
PT Out of all of your projects, which would you say best captures the DNA of Studio Herrström?
LH There's a music startup project we collaborated on at the beginning of this year named ‘Stage’. The concept of this app essentially combines elements of Voice and TikTok, with the goal of becoming the platform where the stars of tomorrow can be discovered in an easy, community-driven manner.
Within this project, we tried to encapsulate the core concept of the product in its logo, helping them to communicate Stage’s unique round-by-round competition format. Based on this, we developed a systematic brand identity expressed in everything from patterns and iconography to artist profile cards, campaign layouts and even storytelling graphics for investor decks.
We will continue our path to becoming the go-to agency for everything related to music.
PT Similarly, could you share some notable client experiences or projects that have left a lasting impression on the studio?
EH For us, the legacy brandings for Whitney Houston and Elvis Presley in partnership with Sony Music were definitely some notable moments for the studio. It was such an honour to design for some of the biggest and most influential artists ever to have lived on this planet. It still brings a smile to our faces when we see these projects in our portfolio, all while knowing that millions of fans interact with what we have created. With these projects, we definitely ticked off top items on our studio bucket list.
PT Moving forward, what are your goals for Studio Herrström?
EH We will continue our path to becoming the go-to agency for everything related to music. We strongly believe that with our passion, expertise, and knowledge, we are able to help brands and artists perform their best.