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This year’s visual identity for IBM Think is an audio-visual collaboration – gestural, expressive, and driven by a deep sound analysis.

For this project with IBM and Grammy-winning music artist Imogen Heap, FIELD developed a new kind of sound visualisation: free from the paradigm of the timeline, dance-like and graphical – with the ambition of making the viewer hear, feel, and see the music.

Rendered for a new original composition and numerous variations – applied to as key visuals across all media for Think, IBM’s flagship conference with 40,000 attendees, this year held as the first fully digital event of its scale.

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The artwork is rendered by a truly generative visual system, where an ensemble of graphical elements respond to groups of instruments: Melody, Vocals, Machines, Drum+Bass, Space+Details. Reacting with their shape, colour, surface detail and movement; with every wave, twitch, plop or bend.

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Sound Analysis

With access to an incredibly high fidelity of data, all layers, individual stems, instruments and vocals in the music, we started from a set of custom-built sound analysis tools, applied to individual stems, to extract patterns and understand the make-up of the music composition.

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Formfinding

In an extensive exploration phase, we tried out dozens of ideas for a non-traditional and expressive kind of sound metaphor: from highly structured visualisations with a technical feel, to free-floating and ephemeral forms.

“The deeply layered nature of the music called for a multi-dimensional visual counterpart: favouring simultaneous perception over distinct ‘sound events’ – allowing your senses to blend; as if in synaesthesia.”

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Collaboration

The close collaboration with Imogen gave us the opportunity to develop our conceptual approach in parallel and in conversation. To Imogen’s core idea of interlocking rhythmical patterns, shifting in and out of phase to create a melody, we responded with a 4-part evolution in the animation. Imogen’s style of performing with gestures inspired the “drawing-in-space”-like compositions; her expressive and soulful personality the texture and colour of the artwork.

Both music and visuals are based on the idea that an engineered system generates the raw material for creative expression – the act of building your own tools as a catalyst for artistic freedom.

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Field recording at IBM HQ
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Demo of the Array Mbira, a signature instrument of Imogen’s
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Behind the Scenes: Making-of on the IBM website
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Watch Imogen talk about her process and catchup with FIELD co-founder Vera

“We wanted an evolution of the Think brand: more singular and graphical than last year; with a very human and artistic feel – at the same time, continuity with our 2019 artworks was a key requirement.”

Marcus Wendt, FIELD.IO Creative Director
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“Very new and fresh for IBM – it feels transformative, indicative of spring but also has a technical dimension that represents us as a technology company.”

Matthew Calkins, IBM Creative Director

Credits

Created by

FIELD

Commissioned by

IBM

Original Music by

Imogen Heap

Executive Creative Director

Marcus Wendt

Client Director

Vera-Maria Glahn

Executive Producer

Xavier Boivin

Creative Director

Mike Hughes

Design + Animation

Paul Brenner, Julien Bauzin, Moritz Schwind, Davide Piscitelli, Ariel Lu, Adam Priester, Luke Hale, Kristoffer Moth, Marian Pramberger, Giedrius Paulauskas

Producer

Alice Shaughnessy, Svet Lapcheva

RnD + System Design

Jonas Otto, Felix Faire, Rosie Emery, Dani Macovei, Simon Fiedler

Behind the Scenes Film

Michael Lebor