MIDI gets a great modern brand design in 2021

MIDI brand design cover

It seems 2021 is going to be the year in which companies will renew their brand design and identity. We started the year with the Burger King and Pfizer rebranding strategies and new logos.

Now it is the turn of one of the communication protocols that shaped popular culture so far this millennium: we’re talking about no other than MIDI (acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface).

In case you didn’t know: MIDI is everywhere and anywhere. Almost any tune and song you hear on the radio, TV, or more likely on some music platform uses MIDI at some point in the music production process.

Of course, this is not limited to music, there are MIDI connections that are used for other purposes. For example the management of lights, some types of software, printers, and others. However, we can say that MIDI is an almost exclusive protocol for aural (auditory) experiences: live music, speech, recording, sound-controller interface, etc.

This almost exclusive relationship with aural experiences is extremely important, since, as we will see below, it is the core of the concept that was used for the new brand design.

MIDI rebranding information

The new brand identity design process was made by NYC design company Pentagram (although by the branding company branch located in London). They were in charge of the whole process, which included all kind of design services: from logo design to typography, sound design and website design.

In the project presentation, they explain this is the introduction to the new MIDI 2.0 standard. they provided a lot of information about how and why every element was designed. The process includes a lot of high end design conceptualization (as we should expect from a design company like Pentagram).

We have no information on time to develop this brand strategy from start to end, but we assume it had to be several months.

MIDI brand design: logo design analysis.

MIDI original logo design
MIDI logo design from 1981 to 2020.

For those of us used to the beloved old MIDI logo, the new logo may be a shock. From the recognizable “blocky” style with that 80’s typeface that stands out at first glance and was the first thing we saw in any MIDI instrument, to a subtle, almost ethereal redesign.

The new MIDI logo is visually inspired by the harmonic lines of sound, using fine lines with delicate curves (these curves are known in music and sound as Lissajous curves).

Notwithstanding the above, the wordmark continues to use thick fonts, probably to allow instant recognition in new products that include the new logo.

The concept of the logo is that of a curve at 440hz (what we know as the note A) that is opposed to the frequency of 880hz (the same musical note, one octave higher) with a deviation towards the upper left and right extremes respectively which represents these curves sounding harmonically in stereo.

MIDI logo design 2021
MIDI logo design 2021

Both superimposed curves form a clearly visible letter M, without any difficulty in recognition. We would say more: not only does it not have difficulty in recognition, but it is very easily recognizable.

In short, the pictorial mark is a work of experience design that is very close to art. The conceptualization of this design is so deep and evident that it frames the totality of the new brand design in an identity that is fluid, yet strict in its guidelines.

As for the typography, the designers created a custom sans-serif bold font which is very cohesive with the previous imagery and look-and-feel for this brand. The style guide doesn’t include any information on typography usage, but we noticed the visual elements used for teh brand presentation include another grotesque type font we couldn’t identify. It looks like a mix between Europa Grotesque and Kilburn, but it could be a custom made typography as well.

Pentagram’s words about this rebrand and brand messaging:

The sonic logo complements the wordmarque design, creating a mirror between sound and vision. The pitch starts out at 440 Hz and then rises to 880 Hz, with subtle wave shape and stereo modulation. There is an anticipatory feeling to the sonic identity, similar to that of an orchestra tuning to 440 Hz or Strauss’ ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’. The simplicity and power of these pitches can create a Pavlovian response. Minimal orchestral strings complement the sine waves.

MIDI Project by Pentagram

Brand identity elements

The project includes a series of brand design elements and symbols to give the brand a new voice. This symbolism sits comfortably between the artistic and the technical, between the “nerdy” and the “hip” without losing essence at any time.

The curves coexist amicably with rigid grids, the sound frequency graphics are transformed into almost poetic visualizations.

In short, a well finished and very well accomplished job that allows the brand to express itself in new ways and new scenarios, being able to reach all kinds of target audiences. Applications are plentyful, with a visual language for any kind of collateral, whether it’s graphic design (personal cards, brochures, posters, ads, stationery), product design (hardware or software) or digital applications (including all type of user interfaces, mobile apps, social media ads)

About the color palette, there seems to be none, and the full brand is based on simple monochromatic black and white.

Product Design and user experience

Although the brand redesign carried out by Pentagram does not contemplate product design or physical UX (it would be very rare if it did), we must consider that this is only the kick for the launch of the new MIDI 2.0 standard.

For those who are interested in the technical details of this new standard, you can see the following graphic:

MIDI 2.0 technical specifications
MIDI 2.0 technical specifications

As part of the presentation of the new brand design project, Pentagram shows the use of the new brand identity in industrial design or physical products, but also shows us the application of the concept in sound design, entering the fields of sensory UX.

brand design applied to product design
New brand design applied to product design

And since we are talking about the UX (User Experience) blueprint, we can analyze the new MIDI website, as well as its UID (User Interface Design).

Regarding the design of the website (desktop version), we can say that it is clean and makes use of elements that give dynamism and movement, specifically through the use of videos and parallax animation. It has a responsive design with a simple aesthetic and an overall simple front end.

MIDI gets a great modern brand design in 2021 2
Website shows elements of new MIDI 2.0 brand design, but…

As we mentioned in the articles regarding the new 2021 design trends for website redesigns, the site appears to be half done. We believe that it was not in charge of Pentagram and that whoever did the web development of the website simply added the logo that the design team created.

This impression of a half done web design adn development is verified when checking the mobile version. There are clear and obvious visual and usability errors that a serious design firm could hardly miss.

MIDI gets a great modern brand design in 2021 3
Very poor accesibility, something they will need to fix.

Also, we can see that the site was not made by a UX agency, but was probably made by a web design agency, or by an internal team. This can be inferred from the very low levels of accessibility.

Analyzing the code, the website is made with the open source Joomla CMS. However, the site uses a premade template (that is, not designed for the site). Considering all the variables, and taking into account that MIDI is a non-profit organization, it is very possible that the site is made by an internal team or freelance collaborators rather than a UX design agency or even an independent UI designer.

It is somewhat strange to see a website made in an artisan way while the brand design is made by one of the main design companies in the world. But it is also possible that the new brand identity was launched while the same agency is working on the design and development of a new website.

Bottom line: clearly a half-done job, so it’s not worth delving into until it’s done and finished.

MIDI 2.0 rebranding conclusion

Once the elements that make up the new brand design and visual identity for the launch of MIDI 2.0 have been analyzed, we can reach the conclusion that this project is an absolute success.

Obviously, any project coming from a design agency like Pentagram can hardly be criticized without being taken as a madman without authority. And we won’t be the user experience firm that teaches such design experts how to design.

But the elements that make up this strategy of renewal of visual identity are clearly visible, from concept to concretion. A tangible brand voice with amazing brand guidelines

Taking a classic brand like MIDI and transforming it after 40 years, even though the original brand had no problem, was quite a challenge.

A challenge from which the agency in charge of the design comes out gracefully and with flying colors: the design is aesthetically beautiful, with a subtle and delicate ambivalence between what is strict or communicational design and what is art.

The use of sound design and sensory UX for the development of a brand image that clearly requires these types of design techniques is a pleasant surprise.

The brand image is beautiful and memorable, easily recognizable with the naked eye and from a distance. And although it “breaks” with the old, heavy and rigid image, it does so in a graceful way, allowing the old users of the brand to immediately identify themselves with the new brand identity.

In short: it is a pleasure to analyze such sophisticated and well done projects. This is a new classic that will probably last another 40 years.

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