Studio Foss capture the flow of music in their identity for electronic instrument company UDO
Located in the electronic music hub of Bristol, UDO creates powerful, intuitive and accessible instruments that focus on ‘the power of play.’ Since its inception in 2019 – founded by synth designer George Hearn – London-based Studio Foss have been working with the company on all facets of their identity. We spoke with Co-founder & Creative Director Magnus Hearn to learn more, from naming to the creation and implementation of the identity.
Created with the company’s formation, the name, ‘Unidentified Dancing Objects,’ aims to capture a feeling. “We didn’t want the name to describe what UDO does,” Hearn tells us, “but rather to evoke thoughts of the powerful effect that electronic musical instruments can facilitate: for musicians the flow-state feeling of forgetting the world and becoming one with your instrument, and for listeners the feeling of losing yourself to the music and becoming an ‘unidentified object’ being moved by the sound.”
Reflecting an open-ended name requires an open-ended wordmark or symbol. Therefore, Studio Foss opted for a series of abstract icons, responding to the intangible sensations of sound, movement and energy. “For visual reference, we took a deep dive into the world of old-school record label logos,” he explains, “with a particular shout-out going to the great collection by Luca Lozano compiled into a book published by Klasse Wrecks called Record Label Logo Archive Vol.1.”
From over 100 icons created during early brand development workshops, Studio Foss narrowed and refined these down to a suite of roughly 30, “predominantly created digitally and then printed and rescanned multiple times using a (rickety old) laser printer.” With a “worn in” feeling and “a healthy dose of imperfection,” Hearn adds that the roster will expand as the relationship with UDO continues.
To pair with the identity’s complex, intricate icons, Studio Foss felt it was important to aim for a stripped-back and clear typographic system, led by the comparatively neutral Helvetica Neue. Its Condensed Black weight is used for the wordmark, while the Medium and Regular weights are used for display and body copy. Explaining the decision further, the Creative Director notes that “a more neutral typeface also allows the product itself to shine through via the use of imagery (CGI and photography) – which we considered a key benefit for such a product-focused brand.”
The stripped-back approach is also mirrored in the brand’s use of colour, with neutral whites, off-whites and blacks allowing the product imagery to shine through. For moments of boldness, the studio utilises ‘UDO Blue,’ a colour Hearn describes as “a rich, bold and no-compromise blue that reflects the new ground UDO is treading in the synth market.” The hue brings a fresher, more modern look to the typical retro influences and darker reds and blacks often associated with the field.
For Hearn, a self-confessed “big synthesiser lover” with his own collection of instruments, this was no doubt a dream project. Alongside the creation of the identity, Studio Foss had the honour of working with UDO on the development of its first product, the UDO Super 6. “Collaborating closely with George, we worked through a series of sketched iterations by hand before moving onto Adobe Illustrator to refine the layout structure and bring George’s vision to life,” Hearn tells us. “We then worked with Axel Hartmann, who brought his amazing experience working with some of the biggest names in the synth world, to help us translate these flat designs – using them as the basis to create the final beautiful 3D object,” he concludes. Designed for an unobstructed and intuitive experience, the product design and front panel layouts strip away unnecessary decoration, much like the ethos of the identity system itself.
Helvetica Neue by Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffmann