A perfectly square logo in Ogilvy’s NY Phil rebrand references audiences around an orchestra

“There are a lot of reds”; Ogilvy navigates the “cliches” of designing for music and NYC institutions, as the New York Philharmonic becomes NY Phil.

28 March 2022


Not many New Yorkers call the New York Philharmonic by its full name. Often referred to as “The Phil” or “NY Phil”, ad agency Ogilvy New York has followed their lead, swapping out the name all together for its recent rebrand. Launched as the NY Phil prepares to return to a recently renovated David Geffen Hall for its 2022/23 season, the identity draws from visuals within its architecture and location – namely, through a typographic square logo – while evading the design choices associated with NY institutions.

“Looking at all the cultural institutions in New York, you quickly realise there’s a lot of reds,” says Jens Marklund, head of design at Ogilvy New York, “and everyone claims their one is iconic and distinct.” Leaving behind the NY Phil’s previous red, the agency has developed a palette based around blue, specifically using black and white with blue as an accent. While the previous NY Phil brand had become disjointed, “adding new elements in order to make each season distinct and new from the last one”, Ogilvy has landed on a solution of introducing more colours gradually as the brand matures, hinted at in some of the initial posters.


Ogilvy New York: New York Philharmonic rebrand (Copyright © New York Philharmonic, 2022)

A crucial new cornerstone, in fact the basis of the entire identity, is the logo: a perfectly square diamond. Jens explains that two references inspired the shape; the first is how the David Geffen Hall has moved the stage towards the centre of the hall in its renovation, allowing the audience to surround the orchestra. Ogilvy wanted to capture this “intimacy” with a logo that could be placed over photography. The second inspiration came from the location of the hall itself in the Lincoln Centre; “a rare square inside the rectangular grid that is New York”, says Jens.

To pull off this perfect square, the typography of the logo had to be custom so the stem of the N would align with the horizontal stroke of the L, “as it is usually thinner than the stem,” Jens adds. Optimo’s Plain was paired with Drago from F37 Foundry for the rest of the system. The agency wanted something that “felt contemporary” and long-lasting, “rather than jumping on a trend that quickly becomes outdated”.

Interestingly, designing for an orchestra itself became another area Ogilvy had to be mindful of. Jens says: “When you think of the philharmonic, you immediately want to start designing around the idea of music. And we did. However, there’s a lot of cliches to navigate around. If you’re too playful or theoretical, it can easily come off as a music school. Not the level of sophistication that comes to mind when thinking of a philharmonic orchestra. Instead, we started drawing inspiration from museums. Thinking of NY Phil more as an institution, while also keeping that energy and expression of being an entertainer.”

GalleryOgilvy New York: New York Philharmonic rebrand (Copyright © New York Philharmonic, 2022)

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Ogilvy New York: New York Philharmonic rebrand (Copyright © New York Philharmonic, 2022)

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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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