COLLINS rebrands San Francisco radio station for next 80 years

Now that much of the world has switched to streaming, the idea of ​​listening to a radio station seems old-fashioned. But local radio remains the one big exception, and it’s the one that really came into its own during the pandemic era.

For the San Francisco Bay Area, that special local station is KALW. As they approach their 80th birthday, COLIN
– the New York and San Francisco-based brand experience design firm – was challenged to create a new identity that would serve them for the next 80 years.

It was a project close to everyone’s heart, says designer Barney Stepney. “COLLINS has had an office in San Francisco for several years now,” he says. “It’s a city we love and owe so much to, so we aim to work to support our community as much as possible.”



In 2016, for example, they began their work with local science museum The Exploratorium, and since 2019 they have had a partnership with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.

“In large part, San Francisco’s vibrancy and perpetual sense of possibility is due to its many music and cultural scenes,” says Barney. “KALW is a critical voice for these spaces, and also happens to be one of the most pioneering radio stations in the United States. So for us, this was a unique opportunity.”







And music is in COLLINS’ DNA, he adds. “We’ve also worked with Spotify, Warner Music, SF Symphony and Bose, and so the internal well of language and experience in crafting design solutions for music or music-related organizations runs deep here. With KALW , we had a special chance to deepen that experience by working with a resort that was such a staple in the Bay Area.”

The COLLINS team drew on KALW’s history to create a visual identity system that directly reflects its uniqueness and highlights its connection to the Bay Area.

“In our research, we came across a logo that KALW was using in the late 70s,” Barney explains. “It was odd, made of stenciled lettering, with odd shapes and dimensions that were completely incompatible with each other. In its rigidity of form, we immediately recognized that the logo was also incompatible with the flowing style, flamboyant and hippie of art and design in San Francisco in the 1970s. In this strangeness, however, we found surprising character, memorability and tons of energy.




They were all excited about the idea of ​​using a stencil for the new identity, he continues. “There’s a raw, utilitarian aspect to a stencil that anyone can relate to. It’s also representative of the building blocks that come together to form a whole and a community, which is exactly what KALW has managed to do in the past. over the past 80 years. A bold voice travels far.

“We wanted to create a logo that would be as unique and powerful as the voice of KALW itself and express the vibrant future they continue to build with the Bay Area community. We wanted the logo to act as the main source of inspiration. images in KALW communications. This puts brand identity at the forefront.”

The rest of the branding system, including colors, draws inspiration from both the simplicity of jazz and classical concert posters of the 1950s and 1960s and Disney films such as George Gershwin’s musical composition Rhapsody in Blue. Fantasy 2000.

“These intense color combinations were memorable and brought life and energy in short, bright bursts,” says Barney. “We wanted to do something similar for the KALW brand, so we used color combinations that vibrate and feel unfamiliar.

“The result is a colorful and bold identity, including a new logo inspired by jazz lettering and classic 50s and 60s concert posters, that can grow with the station as it continues to reinvent and redefine local radio. .”

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