Putting the concept first: Systems Studio’s identity for SAATU puts sound design front and centre
“The idea of using the barcode was initially adopted as a strategic intervention,” System Studio’s Partner & Design Director Giorgio Del Buono tells us, concerning the prominent use of a barcode motif across the London-based design agency’s identity for sound design studio SAATU. “We’d looked at how sound designers present their services and noticed that client visuals often dominate,” Del Buono continues, “so, we were looking for a way to reverse that,” in turn pushing the client-based visual elements of the brand to the background and championing the sound design – led by a uniquely generated barcode pattern from output to output.
“Having hit on the idea that we could use the barcode as a kind of screen,” he recalls, a feature seen abstractly fracturing the ‘client’ visuals, “we started thinking about how we could push the device to create some brand space between SAATU and their clients,” in doing so creating a contrasting tension between the brutalist, commonplace aesthetics of the barcode with the “glossier” product outcomes. As a result, subverting the industry’s standard approach to presenting practice and practitioner. “It is more metaphorical than literal,” Del Buono notes, “as a solution, the barcode device is a bit of unconventional lateral thinking,” complementing SAATU’s own inventive, forward-thinking output.
The standardised, simple and subsequently brutal basis of the identity is cemented in the similarly stoic typographic choices, opting for Monotype’s Neue Haas Unica and NB Akademie Mono from Berlin-based type foundry Neubau. “Neue Haas Unica has a primary use, chosen for its combination of neutrality and substance,” Del Buono remarks, “whilst NB Akademie Mono has a colder, default character,” relating more directly to the “techno-administrative” sonic brand space – complimented by SAATU’s correspondingly flexible approach to colour.
“Although there is some selection at play,” he details, “choice is constrained to an accent colour from within that project’s client visual,” firmly interconnecting the brand with its collaborators. “This all sounds very rule-bound and serious,” he notes, “so it’s important to mention the somewhat playful, even absurd adoption of rules here,” that being the deliberate “stubbornness and visual negation” that transports the brand from strict systems to joyous surprise. “In any case,” Del Buono concludes, it’s “very SAATU.”