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

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”.
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.
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 where [the Philharmonic] played its infamous 1961 Proms event, and Bridgewater Hall in Manchester where it performed today,” says Jack.