Dolby design language



Dolby came to Astro Studios asking for a form language for the Dolby Brand. The form language needed to live in harmony with existing brand guidelines and span across consumer, enterprise, and professional categories. Though the system should  draw from the Dolby brand and established design principles that all endpoints will be based on- physical product, user interface, graphics, etc- the resultant of this effort was to be focused on form. 

Finding Inspiration

It is my point of view that if you have a genuinely compelling creation story, you must celebrate it to create the strongest brand possible. It brings your consumer closer to who you are as a company. It humanizes you. It allows them to better understand you and find deeper meaning in the experiences you give to them. We found inspiration in the remarkable creation story of Ray Dolby.

Dolby labs began with Ray Dolby in 1965. Ray Dolby was a scientist, an inventor, a visionary, but above all, he was an exceptionally bright and curious human being. I’m convinced he was a man who was moved by music, that he admired the artistry and the passion of creators of music, but he was also a man in awe of the mysterious mechanics of sound.  

Ray Dolby experienced sound differently than you or I. You and I hear the violin; Ray Dolby saw the reverberation of the steel core strings. You and I feel bass; Ray Dolby understood the cone area required to  create the powerful sound.

“I started playing the piano at 10, then moved to clarinet so I could play in the school orchestra. Mainly, though, I was fascinated by the technology of music: how organs worked, how reeds vibrated, why things sounded the way they did.”

To him, sound was a puzzle and at that time a relatively unexplored frontier. Dolby felt that our understanding of sound in 1965 was doing a disservice to art, music and film. 

Dolby has always been the man behind the curtain, dutifully and seamlessly making the magic happen. As a company Dolby has never been front and center, screaming for attention. Dolby has the wherewithal to know that the resolution and the screen size and the audio quality isn’t the reason people cry in movie theaters. Those aren't the reasons people go to movie theaters. These technical elements are only as important as the story they are releasing into the world. 

Knowing this makes Dolby special. Few audio companies show a true reverence for content; often times the focus is on decorating and accessorizing rather than listening. Dolby knows that the only thing that should be screaming for your attention is the story. The rest is magic. Magic you will you hear, magic you will see; magic you will feel and be deeply moved by, but barely perceive. 

Thematic Development

The thematic that has been created to represent the man behind the curtain, and the magic of art and film, is Transportive.

Transportive is otherworldly. Transportive embraces the escape we find in film and music. Through these channels we transcend the world we’ve come to expect and enter a world of myth and legend and dream. Transportive is different. Transportive is a fresh and unexpected take on audio that results in a stunning aesthetic, while staying rooted in a compelling metaphor. 


Product Form Language Exploration

From the higher Design Principle of Transportive, we designed 3 form languages that translated the Transportive principles into specific guidelines for physical product. Throughout this process I worked hand in hand with the ID team to guide concept development within the strategic framework.

Final Form Language


As a high-level design principle, the Transportive thematic is constructed to be focused enough to guide feel and tone, yet broad enough to accommodate all design efforts (product, graphics, UI, spatial design, etc). From that thematic we developed the hardware-specific form language Juxtaposition, which is the physical manifestation of the metaphors behind Transportive. Juxtaposition is comprised of a form strategy (Interplay, which defines the intersection of two contrasting surfaces), lighting strategy (Threshold, which uses lighting and sound to welcome the user to the Dolby Experience), and a pattern strategy (Mosiac, which is built on the fibonnaci sequence), as well as guidelines for CMF, brand application, and controls. 


The Dolby Dialect Project was enormously successful for Astro Studios, and established several best practices for cross-disciplinary programs. Our efforts produced strong, provocative, and soulful work, as well as a camaraderie and enthusiasm that stood out amongst other projects. At 8 weeks for a full form language program, the project was fast and demanding. Many late nights were required, but every member of the team happily gave their all to deliver the best possible work.

The Form Language was well received by the Dolby team. During the last two weeks of the project, Dolby reached out to Astro Studios with additional projects to begin implementing the form language. I had the pleasure of presenting directly to the company's Chief Marketing Officer, and was asked to return multiple times to present the work to the larger internal team.