SF OperaLab

Opera for the 21st century.

SF OperaLab is the experimental arm of the San Francisco Opera. It’s forward-thinking, dynamic, and innovative; a brash counterpoint to the formality of traditional theater. The identity needed to reflect that without fragmenting its’ relationship to the Opera. So that’s where we began: with the parent brand.

We simplified the SF Opera’s mark, a stately, refined starburst, and reduced it to its essential geometry. The original has an inherent outward momentum, which we captured through fewer, simplified rays. But a single static artifact didn’t fit OperaLab’s excitement constantly shifting repertoire.

It needed to move.

We animated the rays and created a sequence of 248 frames, each its own mark, that radiate endlessly outwards—creating a flexible system of marks that could be applied to performances based on factors like their order of appearance in a given season.

  • Client
  • San Francisco Opera
  • Type
  • Identity
  • Web
  • Role
  • Designer
  • Animator

The SF OperaLab motion logo. It contains 248 frames, creating 248 unique marks to reflect the breadth of performances the Lab puts on.


For SF OperaLab’s programming, we designed a series of one hundred typographic illustrations. The five programs were vastly different in every way imaginable‐we had to distill each down to its thematic or emotional essence. We established palettes based on these distillations, and and then developed key words or phrases for each programs. Both these parts were then integrated with images we’d selected based on the programs’ subject matter.

A grid of six SF OperaLab illustrations

A sample of 6 out of the 100 images created for the first season of SF OperaLab. Each program received its own key phrases and palette, and imagery was developed by exploring different combinations of those key elements.

The identity system was exceptionally well-received. Though intended mostly for web and digital use, the client went on to incorporate all the elements into their brand materials, where they ultimately ended up display signage, playbills, and even an elevator button.

SF OperaLab’s first season was a huge hit. The performances were hugely popular, and the client’s begun planning the following season’s programming. We were incredibly proud to help explore new possibilities for opera and the performing arts, and excited to see where they’re headed in the future.

Devotion to the fans.

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