Pentagram's sound wave-based identity for Nordoff and Robbins is music to our ears

Pentagram has collaborated with the UK's largest music therapy charity Nordoff and Robbins to create a new visual identity which communicates its groundbreaking work through sound wave-inspired graphics.

Founded in 1959 by American composer and pianist Paul Nordoff and special education teacher Clive Robbins, Nordoff and Robbins uses music to break through barriers, allow people to express themselves, and find connections in society.

From its beginnings, where it would engage with vulnerable and isolated children through collaborative music-making projects, today Nordoff and Robbins helps thousands of people of all ages develop their confidence, self-control, concentration and self-awareness. But to reach more people and achieve its ambitious fundraising objectives, the charity needed to increase brand awareness and re-engage with the music industry. Enter Pentagram.

Nordoff and Robbins approached the world's largest design consultancy to create a new visual identity that would not only reposition the charity as a champion for the social value of music but also raise awareness of music therapy in society. To do this, the pair decided to refine who the key audience was and spread the word about the positive impact that music therapy can have.

Central to the brand overhaul was a new phrase proposed by Pentagram: 'breakthrough with music'. It was felt that this neatly summarises what Nordoff and Robbins does and easily communicates how the charity helps people who may have spent most of their lives in isolation.

Accompanying this phrase was a new name for the charity, which tweaks the existing title in a subtle but clever way. Going forward, the charity will be referred to as Nordoff and Robbins, which references the names of the two founders and also reflects the music therapy methodology they pioneered.

Visually, this new title is represented by a logo which consists of an ampersand and a wordmark. The ampersand acts as a bridge between the two names and alludes to the strong connection between the therapists and their clients. Inspired by sound waves, the symbol also echoes the freedom of expression and connections that can be fostered through music.

"The charity's work is a result of the synergy between therapist and client, an experience that explores sound in unusual ways beyond the classic conventions of music," Pentagram explains. "The new logo perfectly expresses this through a specially drawn symbol. In contrast, the wordmark is direct and grounded and represents the charity's rich heritage and expertise in music therapy."

As you would expect for a charity centred around communication, the tone of voice was deliberately kept honest, clear and straightforward. And beyond the copy messaging, the primary typeface chosen by the design team, Silka, perfectly captures this with its modern, easy-to-read, sans serif letter shapes.

"With minimal contrast of strokes and simple geometric shapes, it allows for clear communication combined with high accessibility while always feeling approachable," Pentagram adds.

As for the colours chosen to represent the charity, Pentagram settled on a carefully curated palette of vibrant and more natural muted shades. It was felt that this specially selected spectrum of contrasting hues would be flexible enough to communicate and appeal to different personalities while also reflecting Nordoff and Robbins' wide appeal.

"As part of the graphic language, the team created a selection of wave-like abstract patterns," Pentagram explains. "These include a graphic wave crop, a series of abstract patterns and a series of sound waves. A family of bespoke icons were also created to easily visualise some of the integral parts of Nordoff and Robbins' work."

Capping off the new identity is a series of photographic images which clearly communicate the good work that Nordoff and Robbins' therapists achieve. These candid shots include snaps taken in music therapy sessions or in the client's own space in order to capture real moments of joy, wonder and engagement.


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