An Audio Identity for DSB
In 1984, the renowned Danish composer, Niels-Viggo Bentzon, created DSB’s iconic audio motif to be used as a call sound in the IC3 trains. The audio mark has become synonymous with the company and the Danes’ train rides, but many railways have changed since then, and time had come for DSB to use sound and music more strategically in all customer touchpoints.
Together with DSB’s team of marketers, we have created a complete audio identity centered around the iconic audio mark to generate a greater coherence between music and audio logo in their soundscape and across channels.
Updating A Classic
When DSB approached us to do an updated version of their iconic audio logo, we knew it was going to be a unique challenge. Not only did we have to create an updated audio logo, we also had to expand their audio identity with three brand new music tracks that could express the DSB personality in a variety of ways.
Listen to DSB’s old audio logo here:
These three brands tracks needed to highlight three different ways that DSB communicated via their personality. Namely driven by emotion, driven by enlightenment or driven by facts.
We also needed to adapt the audio logo to make it fit a variety of different situations. First off we needed to make a version that would fit as a notification sound in the trains for whenever there was an announcement. To make the audio identity as flexible as possible, we also needed to develop three distinct versions of the audio logo for the three different brand tracks, so that they could smoothly transition into an audio logo with the same instrumentation and feeling.
“Through a variety of discussions and exercises we ended up with strong auditory definitions for each keyword”
Laying Down The Rails
We started out by establishing the core personality and values that DSB wanted to express in their sound, through a series of workshops. This core personality would be what informed how the updated logo should sound, and the mix of attributes that the different brand tracks should contain.
These were the chosen key attributes of the DSB personality.
With the personality in place, we now had to figure out how to express these different key attributes in sound.
Through a variety of discussions and exercises we ended up with strong auditory definitions for each keyword, that would inform how the new audio identity should sound. Here are some of the findings that we discovered:
– A medium to high tempo, as well as a strong rhythmical element gave the feeling of “Forward-Facing” and “Pulse”.
– Using instrumentation that includes a rhodes piano as well as using open chords gave the feeling of “Empathy”.
– A nice and simple melody gave a “Human”, “Empathetic” and “Positive” feel.
– Having a recognizable melody was experienced as “Empathetic”
– Drums with a double time feel were experienced as “Pulse”.
– A triplet rhythm gave a feeling of “Pulse” as well.
With the findings in mind, we started production of DSB’s new audio identity.
“For the audio logo, we knew we wanted to retain much of the structure of the old version, so that people could still recognize it. That meant that we had to keep the rhythm and the recognizable melody of the old logo.”
Full Speed Ahead
For the audio logo, we knew we wanted to retain much of the structure of the old version, so that people could still recognize it. That meant that we had to keep the rhythm and the recognizable melody of the old logo.
The melody contains the same “DSB” tones as before, which correlates to the notes “D-Eb-Bb” because when those notes are spoken it sounds exactly like if you would say “DSB.
We updated the instrumentation to sound more modern and simple than the previous version. We removed the harmonies as they could potentially be experienced as negative and confuse the listener, and instead focused on making the three notes as clear as possible. We did this by utilizing rhodes and bells as the main instruments in the logo, which both sound very clean but are both also able to be heard easily over the speakers in the trains.
We aimed to also infuse the logo with a sense of pulse and forward momentum. To achieve this, we incorporated discreet percussion layers beneath the melody, effectively propelling the logo with increased energy. This rhythmic percussion element subtly alludes to the industry in which DSB operates, evoking the sensation of train tracks and their continuous motion.
In the end, we ended up with a new audio logo that has since become a stable in the Danish soundscape.
Hear the final result and DSB new audio logo here:
Brand Track 1: Driven by Emotion
The first DSB brand track aimed to highlight the empathic side of DSB, which meant highlighting the heart-warming, poetic and sensitive aspects as well.
Our goal was to craft an immersive experience characterized by the fluidity of rich strings and ample reverb, inducing a dreamy and contemplative ambiance for the listener. To maintain a forward propulsion in the track without veering into aggressiveness, our emphasis was on crafting a rhythm that featured subtle syncopation, lending it a dynamic and less rigid quality. To intensify the sense of flow, we employed ostinatos and repeated notes, imbuing the entire composition with an ethereal quality.
Brand Track 2: Driven by Enlightenment
Our second brand track for DSB was designed to convey a human, positive mood, underpinned by key attributes such as empathy and being at eye-level. To achieve this, we selected the piano as the central instrument, known for its expressiveness, soft tones, and inherently human qualities.
The piano served as the primary texture layer, establishing a foundation for the empathetic atmosphere we sought to create. Additionally, the inclusion of a Rhodes piano further emphasized this empathic quality, enhancing it through both its distinctive sound and the underlying chord progression.
In this track, a rhythmic element was introduced, evoking the most human of sensations: a heartbeat. This pulsating rhythm provided the driving force behind the composition, imbuing it with a sense of vitality. Just as in the audio logo, we incorporated train track references into this brand track to connect the experience of riding a DSB train with the feeling of being cared for by the train personnel and allowing time for introspection and enlightenment. Throughout the entirety of the brand track, we introduced a surge of energy, mirroring the sensation of attaining an enlightened state and the sense of progress as one reaches their destination after a train journey.
Brand Track 3: Driven by Facts
Brand track 3 was the most energetic track that we made for DSB. We wanted this track to represent the forward-facing and pulsating aspect of the DSB brand as well as being “factual” in the sense , while also highlighting key attributes such as modern, having intensity and being robust.
We started out with a stable drum beat that felt very robust, and which mostly the same throughout the whole track, making it an element that carries much of the track on its back.
To give the brand track a feeling being modern and pulsating, we choose an electric guitar with a funky rhythmical pattern to highlight this. The guitar pattern propels both the tempo and feeling of the track forwards, while also giving it intensity. There is also another guitar pattern that helps give the track some moment. This pattern is characterised by a small guitar melody being effected by both reverb and delay, which makes it feel fast, moving and exciting.
The journey to create DSB’s new audio identity has been a captivating and innovative process. Since Niels-Viggo Bentzon’s creation of the iconic audio motif in 1984, sound and music have evolved significantly. In the end, this project has successfully revitalized DSB’s auditory presence, ensuring a harmonious and coherent soundscape that mirrors the company’s core values and personality. The evolution of DSB’s audio identity is a testament to the power of sound in conveying the essence of a brand and its journey into the future.
Thanks to DSB for a great collaboration!
DSB has been producing new films using their audio identity with help from Sonic Minds. This has resulted in various films:
DSB Sustainability 2023
Commercial | Music
DSB Hav & Kamal
Commercial | Music
DSB Christmas Film 2020
Commercial | Music
DSB Orange January 2024
Commercial | Music
DSB Christmas 2023
Commercial | Music
Words From DSB
“We must develop and update the audio logo and create our very own DSB sound identity. We need to use sound and music strategically and tactically to strengthen our communication and create greater coherence across all our channels. Our brand must be cared for and nurtured to be constantly present in the minds of customers. We have been through an audio identity process where we have created three different music pieces based on our core values, vision, and strategy. Music numbers that, in their way, reflect and express our brand and values. They are composed so that our unique audio logo motif appears elegantly in the compositions. Hence, creating a solid congruence between music in our marketing and advertising and our well-known audio logo. The sound of DSB. “
Niels-Otto Fisker, Head Of Corporate Communications, DSB