Saint-Étienne Opera House

Designed by Graphéine, Lyon.

Opera Saint Etienne identity

Saint-Étienne Opera House is a landmark of great cultural importance, a predominant player in the cultural life of the city.

Opera Saint Etienne

The objective laid out in this commission was to re-establish a sense of closeness with the people of Saint-Étienne through simple and down-to-earth communication. The main change was forgoing the “Opera-Theatre” name in favour of “Saint-Étienne Opera” to reflect an image of a traditional Opera House for its aficionados, but also to draw in potential opera-goers.

Opera Saint Etienne logo evolution

Opera Saint Etienne logo conceptLogo concept

An unmissable architectural feature, the roof of the building looks as if it is giving a sign. With its location from the heights of the Jardin des Plantes park, the sign overlooks the city. For Saint-Étienne’s inhabitants it has become part of their landscape.

Perfectly circular, the hall offers exceptional comfort and acoustics.

Opera Saint Etienne logo concept

On the top of the “E”, the accent stresses the syllable by increasing the intensity of the voice. It decks the word “opéra” with the image of the building’s pagoda.

The shape of the “O” brings to mind an open mouth singing an operatic aria. The “O” is used to show a strong emotion such as surprise, admiration, joy, etc.

Opera Saint Etienne logo

In opera, music and dance are intimately linked through “movement.” This could be the movement of a body, of musical notes or simply the emotions* triggered by these two art forms. (*The word “emotions” literally means “to make movement” of feelings). The emotion behind this logo comes from the optical framing trick between an “O” and the “accent.” The “O” looks as if it’s disappearing at the same time as the accent appears. That’s Opera’s magic!

Opera Saint Etienne logo

Opera Saint Etienne logo

Opera Saint Etienne identity

Opera Saint Etienne identity

Opera Saint Etienne identity

Opera Saint Etienne identity

Opera Saint Etienne identity

To inaugurate the new logo’s first season, we came up with a simple and accessible communication campaign that features, in photos, all the staff members who work at the Opera. The logo’s there to finish off the smile of the person being photographed, as if a curious spectator had come to peek through the Opera doors, wide-eyed at what they saw. So it’s about re-establishing a feeling of closeness between the people of Saint-Étienne and a popular cultural venue. The campaign comes with the slogan “And the magic opera(te)…”, a pun in France between the word “operate” and the word “opera.”

Opera Saint Etienne identity

Opera Saint Etienne identity

Right from the bid-for-tender phase, we put forward the idea of photographing real people from Saint-Étienne (the “Stéphanois” as they are known) for the new season’s communication campaign. We wanted to avoid the bank of images effect — the kind of stereotyped portraits of people with fake smiles. Alongside the opera’s communications team and our favourite photographer from Lyon, Ghislain Mirat, we organised a photo shoot inside the Opera. On a voluntary basis, all staff members were invited to have their portrait taken. The day was highly rewarding and motivating. Three quarters of staff members entered into the spirit, from the people who work at reception to the director, not forgetting the faces hidden behind the curtain, the smiles of the dressmakers, happy children, and a few drifters walking by!

They had no idea at that point what the project was going to look like. So they were both surprised and proud to discover they had become icons of their own Opera House. It might need a reminder that the Opera had been through some tricky months of political and administrative upheaval and team morale was pretty low. We hope this unique campaign put a smile back on people’s faces when they went to work. That was our objective in any case!

Opera Saint Etienne identity

Illustrating the “young audience” — obviously the children of staff who are loaned to the game. And what a game for them, it was a real gang of “scoundrels smiling” and a treat for the photographer!

Opera Saint Etienne identity

Opera Saint Etienne identity

Opera Saint Etienne identity

Opera Saint Etienne identity

Opera Saint Etienne identity

Opera Saint Etienne identity

With eight different covers, the seasonal programme also put the portraits in pride of place. A definite collector’s item, the 15,000 printed issues have almost all gone!

Opera Saint Etienne identity

Opera Saint Etienne identity

Opera Saint Etienne identity

Opera Saint Etienne identity

What’s special about the programme too is that the start of each chapter serves as a divider. What we have are small booklets less than 4cm wide with a series of portraits inside. Because they are narrower, they make for easy reading as people can find programme chapters more swiftly. The idea may look straightforward on paper, but we have to admit that our favourite printer (Ferréol) tore his hair out a fair few times to produce a programme for less than a euro! Many thanks to him and his team, and thanks also to Céline (from Graphéine) who fought like a warrior to make the printing possible.

Opera Saint Etienne identity

Opera Saint Etienne identity

A final cheeky addition — the ticket holder. A simple piece of card folded in four with a slit to slip the ticket into. Turning the fold over stops the ticket from sliding out. A very stylish idea that ends up cutting costs, too, as it avoids the traditional plastic pouch.

Opera Saint Etienne identity

Opera Saint Etienne identity

Here are a few photos from the season launch. The same smiles as the ones in the brochure were to be found on the faces of each of the Opera’s collaborators.

Opera Saint Etienne identity

Opera Saint Etienne identity

Opera Saint Etienne identity

Opera Saint Etienne identityThe Graphéine team in Lyon, from left to right, Mathias (creative director), Céline (project manager), Adrienn (artistic director) and Jonas (graphic designer and layout artist).

See the latest Opera season campaign designed by Graphéine.

More identity work on the Graphéine website. Follow Graphéine on Twitter.

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