We’ve all heard of fast fashion and all the problems it brings. But “fast furniture” is also a problem.
Disposable designs have been hugely successful with great branding and low prices, but it’s basically an environmental and societal disaster. That’s why Symbol – a company focused on beautiful and functional furniture at the intersection of sound and design – worked with a creative studio High tide build a different kind of brand.
With its new nostalgic identity system, Symbol looks back to the 1950s, 60s and 70s to deliver a vision of the future that is handcrafted, moving and built to last.
Symbol was founded by Blake Tovin, who has designed furniture for companies such as Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware, West Elm and others for over 20 years. Now, with a new brand image, the aim was to stand out in a resurgent market as vinyl record sales skyrocketed during the pandemic.
This sudden shift has impacted ancillary businesses such as Symbol, a hi-fi audio storage company looking to move more broadly into the furniture space. Needing to rethink its brand to appeal to a wider audience while positioning itself as an antidote to disposable furniture design, the company turned to creative studio High Tide for a new identity system and a new website.
Both should embody the brand’s passion for quality craftsmanship and a time-tested approach in the age of disposable design.
From the beginning, High Tide has recognized Symbol’s commitment to design and craftsmanship, from its products to its corporate headquarters. It all felt very personal and intimate, but their existing branding didn’t communicate any of that passion.
“Sometimes with a brand change, you have to find the character of the brand, take whatever works and tweak it,” says High Tide founder and creative director Danny Miller. “With Symbol, the company was in the right place, but its strengths weren’t quite visible yet. We worked to figure out how to bring the warmth, depth and personality of the product into the brand so that it be the most faithful representation of itself.”
Even though Symbol was expanding into other types of furniture, a key consideration was keeping the brand rooted in music, adds Danny. “We wanted to present Symbol as a brand that enhances and inspires people’s lives with materials and objects that add emotional value.”
“Furthermore, because the furniture itself is a very contemporary take on classic Scandinavian and mid-century furniture design, the brand had to draw inspiration from the 50s, 60s and 70s while also embracing modernist elements. Similar to heirloom pieces passed down from generation to generation, the identity had to transcend different decades and not be too tied to one era.”
The finished designs combine bold lettering and iconography with sleek photography, giving the visuals a forward-looking and energetic yet nostalgic feel. “The interplay between graphics, type and color is bold, confident and very rhythmic, especially when paired with warm mid-century furniture,” says Danny. “The key subtle references are designed to excite older audiences, while the more contemporary and playful feel of the art direction and photography appeals to younger audiences.”
This delicately balanced approach extends to all elements of the new brand, including logo, branding, typography, website design and development, and photography. The result is a revitalized brand suited to the people, products and philosophy at the heart of a growing family business.
“This collaboration was a dream and not just because of our mutual love for vinyl, music and high-end furniture,” says Danny. “Symbol trusted us and leaned into the most expressive and unexpected ideas, which really made the design more confident and stronger. The company creates furniture that is functional, intentional and moving: three qualities that a perfect fit with High Tide’s philosophy. We can’t wait to see where the next phase of growth takes them.”
Looking at the finer details, the wordmark was mid-century inspired and meant to be bold, iconic and timeless. “It was meant to echo their furniture: sturdy and able to stand the test of time. We added sharp, quirky highlights like the custom ‘Y’ to give the brand its own character and edge,” says Danny.
The color palette was also mid-century inspired. “It was an era in design where designers were limited by what they could produce graphically, so using bright, punchy colors allowed them to create maximum impact simply and efficiently. It helped bring emotion and excitement to the brand with the bold and liberal use of color throughout.”
For the brand, its forms are deconstructed from the wordmark, Danny explains. “The dot in the center represents a vinyl record, a nod to the brand’s musical roots, and the other shapes wrap around the circle to create an ‘S’. It’s also an evolution of their original brand, which was an simple circle inside a square.”
And with typography, High Tide chose a font family called Supreme, which is rooted in the classic Futura typeface but a contemporary take modernized for today’s digital age. “The clean geometric shapes complement and connect to the wordmark and trademark, and the way we pace the text is directly inspired by the music and musical notes on a page,” Danny explains.
Finally, the illustration style features a deliberately simple, clean, and technical drawing style to highlight the schematic furniture designs in a simple and utilitarian way. “Some elements are filled in and not completely linear to go back to the boldness of the wordmark and branding,” Danny concludes.