Evoking TV fuzz, BBC Philharmonic gets a surprisingly dreamy revamp for its centenary

Modern Designers flicked through 100 years of Broadcast history, landing on a “modern-day test card” for this season’s campaign.

4 August 2022

Alongside the BBC itself, the BBC Philharmonic – primarily a broadcast orchestra – is turning 100. While its historical legacy is undeniable, the institution was “really keen” to move away from the traditional format of print for its campaign this season, Modern Designers’ Mat Bend relays. Modern Designers, the Manchester-based studio behind the work, has obliged with a digitally led campaign featuring modular illustrations that can be reshuffled in a number of configurations to promote various concerts. Although the modern sensibility goes further still, Modern Designers has also managed to reconfigure historic broadcast visuals into a dreamy – dare we say trippy?! – new format for the BBC.

This season’s Philharmonic campaign takes its cue from vintage test cards used in the early days of BBC broadcasting (you might remember test cards as those geometric, multicoloured visuals that would pop up on TV screens when no programmes were on). Lead designer on the project Jack Kimberley explains further: “The framework of these cards presented a perfect opportunity to showcase the BBC Philharmonic’s history through a series of illustrations ranging from the abstract to the literal.” Sophie Douala is the illustrator behind the work, harnessing a soft and “almost emotional” style that, according to Jack, lends “itself naturally to the abstract and representational”.

Sophie’s campaign imagery is largely composed of geometric gradient forms, but the illustrator has also hidden historical easter eggs in the fuzz. For example, references to musical instruments and the broadcast tower at Alexandra Palace crop up throughout. Additionally, to emphasise Sophie’s work, Modern Designers had added stricter forms depicting other relevant locations, “like the Royal Albert Hall, and Bridgewater Hall in Manchester where it has performed today,” says Jack.

The illustrations are accompanied by a family of kinetic animation styles by Lucas Hesse, designed to help each interaction feel new.

Jack outlines that Modern Designers’ approach, although refreshing, is firmly rooted in the nature of the season and the orchestra’s origins. “The BBC Philharmonic programme is always quite different from what you’d expect from an orchestra. Each season showcases new commissions and premieres, and they are always keen to reflect that through creativity, innovation and the campaigns we work on.”

Jack concludes: “We wanted this campaign to connect with the age of visual and video culture, but we didn’t want to alienate long-term attendees, so it was important that our visual references reflect the past, but still look and feel modern.”

GalleryModern Designers: BBC Philharmonic (Copyright © BBC Philharmonic, 2022)

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Modern Designers: BBC Philharmonic (Copyright © BBC Philharmonic, 2022)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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