Dice visualises sound, and fandom, in energetic rebrand

Creative director Patrick Duffy explains how and why they made the glitchy graphics (with a Chladni plate), the punk-inspired typography and fan-focused photography.

25 February 2020

If you’ve been out recently, chances are you booked it through Dice. The ticketing platform has not only made buying gig tickets easier, but is revolutionising the live music world by supporting smaller venues and artists, and building a community through its app. Now, in a visual identity overhaul that has been a long time in the making – with one full attempt in the bin – by the in-house creative team led by creative director Patrick Duffy, the company is rebranding to focus on its audience, the fans.

Duffy, formerly creative lead at Airbnb, joined the company and spent the first six months on a rebrand that went wrong, he tells It’s Nice That. It started with the same ambition as the eventual successful route: “to get people to go out more” but was based on the idea “make yourself unavailable”. “We had the idea and ran with it, even though we had doubts,” he remembers. “It never really came together.” When the team finally realised it wasn’t sending the right message, the whole rebrand was scrapped and they went back to the drawing board. The answer was eventually found by looking more closely at Dice’s loyal users, the people who go to gigs. “The fan is our only customer. Unlike other players in our industry we are genuinely trying to solve problems for the fan. So we wanted to inhabit what it feels like to be a fan.”

As a result, “Be the Fan” is Dice’s new brand proposition, a mission statement that the creative team (as well as the whole business) could get behind. This has informed all aspects of the rebrand, from the glitchy graphic device used across the identity in various “frequencies”, to the punk-inspired typography and a growing bank of photography that captures gigs in their gritty, sweaty glory.

For the graphics, Duffy and his team were looking for a way to translate “Be the fan” into a visual device. Design lead Stewart Walker – apparently himself a fan of electronic music – came up with a proposal that asked his colleagues “have you ever seen sound?” “He was saying that when you’re at a gig, there’s a feeling in the room and literally vibrations from the music. That’s what we needed to visualise,” Duffy explains. Inspired by a Nikola Tesla quote: “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration,” the team acquired a Chladni plate, hooked it up to a tone generator, scattered various granular substances (salt, sand, flour, etc.) on top, and experimented with changing the frequencies. “It changes the patterns in the powder,” Duffy says, “and visualises the altering vibrations. It’s also super loud so we had to hire a recording studio.”

The results are a library of hundreds of different patterns, photographed and bitmapped and made into animations, for the creatives to deploy in three different “frequencies” according to the brand guidelines. At a low “frequency”, a simple, pared-back graphic is applied in one colour. At mid “frequency,” a large pattern can be used in one of the predetermined colour combinations, with more patterns layered in another colour. High “frequency” graphic usage comprises a heady cocktail of crops and duplicates of the same vibration applied to the page, with additional patterns in another colour, plus a fourth colour on top. It gives the creatives plenty of room to be expressive, and adapt content to be as loud or quiet as needed. “It made everything come to life,” Duffy says.

Having cut his teeth working on Sleazenation in the early 2000s, Duffy brought some of the magazine’s lo-fi values to Dice’s typography. Scott King, creative director at the time, was a punk, Duffy says, “and typographically his approach was to use typefaces everyone has, and to make something great from them, rather than choose a typeface that no one has access to. It’s a more utilitarian punk aesthetic.” Dice uses two typefaces, Favorit as the principle and Times New Roman as the secondary, “a new one and an old classic”. This is animated and played with, rotated, squashed, skewed, broken and condensed in various ways “to bring in that energy”. It was also quicker than designing or commissioning a new typeface. “We have so little time to waste,” Duffy says, “so we thought, here’s this beautifully designed typeface (Times New Roman) that works really well… fuck it, let’s just use it.”

There was similar reasoning behind the unchanged logo.“We have this logo which is not beautiful, but we made a choice not to do anything to it because it works, and it's really recognisable, and there's bigger things to worry about!” Duffy laughs. “I’m not interested in it looking perfect, it just has to carry the spirit of the brand.”

No other medium conveys this spirit better than the photography. Finding that most gig photography shows a sea of anonymous heads, usually from behind to focus on the artist on stage, Dice’s approach – “Be the Fan” – is to turn the lens back on the crowd, showing gigs from their perspective. This is also a mentality carried from Duffy’s Sleazenation days, having worked with photographers like Ewen Spencer, “who would be lying on the dancefloor to get a shot,” Duffy remembers. “He had this monkey-like ability to get up and around the people in the crowd.”

Working with local photographers across Dice’s key locations (Sean Maung in LA, Keffer in Paris and Neelam Khan Vela in the UK) and, importantly, staying away from live music photographers and instead looking for a more documentarian approach, the company has amassed a bank of raw, intimate, brilliantly real shots of people on a night out. There’s no coherent style that links them, some are black and white and some are colour, some are film and some are digital.

“We let them shoot however they want. We haven’t tried to align them aesthetically to give them the same style because it’s kind of boring. They don’t go together but I don’t really care. As long as people feel like, ‘I want to be in that room’. It’s a risky approach but it’s much more alive.”

GalleryDice rebrand

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

After five years as It’s Nice That’s news editor, Jenny became online editor in June 2021, overseeing the website’s daily editorial output.

Jenny is currently on maternity leave.

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