A Synesthetic Brand

Pentagram has created a new brand identity for the MIDI Association. MIDI, or Musical Instrument Digital Interface, is a technology that musicians and others who work with and enjoy music use every day to create and share music. Created in 1981, MIDI allowed traditional instruments and digital instruments and tools to interact, an ability that quickly changed the musical world.

The product was updated in 2020 as MIDI 2.0, and one of its new and outstanding attributes is bidirectionality, which allows MIDI 2.0 devices to communicate in both directions. Pentagram’s new visual identity represents this ability: the curves of the logo’s M were created by combining sound waves with frequencies of 440 and 880 Hz. Pentagram also created a sonic logo for MIDI that builds on the same two pitches. Starting at 400 Hz, like an orchestra tuning to the same pitch, then rising to 880 Hz, the sonic logo creates that emotional feeling of anticipation.

The visuals that accompany the new identity build on that same notion of anticipation. We see a branch, then a broken branch: we know the sound of that conversion without hearing it. We see rolling ball bearings, but do not need to hear them to understand the sounds they make. Pentagram calls it “the binary of the heard and the unheard.” It’s the anticipation of sound through our experience with it that makes sound so rich in emotion.


From the Pentagram website: “Sound is sentimental and can be imagined even in the absence of audible clues—a synesthesia of sorts that visualizes sound and vice versa. Unheard outputs such as imagery and motion give way to soundscapes trained by synaptic communication in our brains that create memories.”



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