Established in 1969, Sydney Dance Company is one of Australia’s leading contemporary dance companies. With an ensemble of 18 dancers, led by Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela, Sydney Dance Company produces original works of choreography and performs regularly in The Wharf, where they are the resident company, in Sydney’s Walsh Bay (currently under renovation) as well as stages around the world when they tour. With the largest public dance class program in Australia, the company teaches over 70,000 people a year. Earlier this year, Sydney Dance Company introduced a new identity designed by Sydney- and Melbourne-based Maud.
An audience is the life blood of any arts organisation. For Sydney Dance Company, their audience spans the entire public, participating in everything from open dance classes, to the schools program, to attendance at their world class seasonal performances. At each end of the spectrum, the Sydney Dance Company brand needs to perform differently in order to attract maximum participation. With limited marketing funding, the brand needs to stretch from something representative of an elite contemporary art form, to something that is open and accessible for amateur or aspiring dancers. Furthermore, in order to maximise marketing communication effectiveness, the brand needs to maintain its strength and prominence through consistent execution.
The 50th Anniversary of Sydney Dance Company was an important milestone that prompted the brand redesign. With the aim of establishing a design language and system that would see the brand through the next 50 years we created a visual identity that is adaptive to context and provides the stage on which content and message perform.
The brand identity is adaptive to context, and provides the stage on which the content and message perform.
A long time ago, Sydney Dance Company had one of the best dance company logos out there, designed by Frost* in another lifetime. Then in 2013, they introduced the previous logo, which for some reason I didn’t cover even though I still have a few tips archived, and it wasn’t good — neither the logo nor the fact that I didn’t cover it. The old logo tried to be a little too edgy by cropping each letter of “DANCE” in daring ways but the result was awkward and unbalanced with a structure that looked as if it was about to crumble. The new logo is better in most respects in contrast to the old logo, with a bold, well structured, and confident look but in the general scheme of things it’s not very interesting, even as it slides sideways in different configurations. The concept of the logo serving as a “stage” by framing other content when the top line opens starts to be interesting but that’s about it. Both in static and motion form, it feels very stiff, which is the last thing you want for a dance company. It feels contemporary but this could easily be the logo for a museum and it would be equally relevant. Execution-wise it’s fine — it’s hard to argue against a nicely typeset bold extended uppercase wordmark.
Some of the applications begin to show signs of life when activated with dance photography and the logo works well to accentuate something like the ad directly above but, again, I think there is something too dry and serious about this. I like the pop of dark red color from the member cards and it would have been interesting to see that in other applications.
Overall, this is not bad by any means — it’s all very well crafted — and the video above shows some more engaging moments of tension between the split logo and images and text extending from the corners but I feel like it’s missing an element of surprise and perhaps… fluidity? Like, if things glided with more elegance and subtlety as dancers do it would feel more appropriate.