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New Work: Apollo Theater Spring Gala

The landmark Apollo Theater in Harlem is an American musical and cultural icon, the place “where stars are born and legends are made” that helped launch the careers of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, and Smokey Robinson, among countless others. On Monday, June 4, the Apollo will host one of the biggest superstars in music today: the resurgent Lionel Richie, currently back at the top of the charts. Richie will be honored alongside the late Etta James at the Apollo Spring Gala, which will induct the two artists into the Apollo Theater Legends Hall of Fame.

Pentagram’s Michael Bierut and Joe Marianek have been working with the Apollo on its brand identity and messaging and created the campaign for the Spring Gala. Richie inspired the Gala graphics, which weave lines from his signature hits “Say You, Say Me” and “All Night Long” into the language for the event: “Say You, Say Me, Say Apollo, Say Lionel, All Night Long.”

The campaign uses a black, white and red color palette and bold typography inspired by historic show posters to project a kind of urban glamour. The interlocking typography captures the spirit and energy of the Gala, while images of artists in performance at the Apollo convey the theater’s legacy and cultural impact. The designers have developed a rich and varied typographic vocabulary for the Apollo brand, and the Gala graphics make prominent use of the condensed sans serif Swiss 911, with support from the custom Apollo logotype font and Chronicle. The designers also created a large-format Gala campaign brochure for potential patrons and sponsors and an animated clip for the Apollo’s website.


Animated clip for the Apollo website.

Project Team: Michael Bierut, partner-in-charge and designer; Joe Marianek and Aron Fay, designers.