Like so many people and places, Pirate, one of Canada’s most respected and successful audio houses, was changed by the pandemic. In more ways than one.
First, they had to find a new place to do their world-famous work upon learning that their home of 30 years would be turned into a condo. (In Toronto?!? So weird.) But the need for a physical reset also led to a reset of a different kind.
“For a long time, Pirate’s branding was in a constant state of flux… we didn’t have a brand style guide. We’d never even been through the process of creating one,” explained Tom Eymundson, one of the Pirate co-owners along with Vanya Drakul. “Many people thought our namesake was that of a swashbuckling pirate.” [sheepishly raises hand.]
The original inspiration for the Pirate name was the famous renegade “pirate” radio stations off the coast of Britain, a response to the government telling the BBC not to play rock and roll. “Our mission was similar in that rather than go with advertising flow, we would challenge it—find more interesting and engaging ways to make sure our clients were being heard,” said Eymundson.
So with the move to a new office forced upon them, Pirate took that as the right time to undertake a top-down rebranding. “A moment of reflection and a chance to reimagine the future,” is how Eymundson described it. “Our friends at BHLA accepted the challenge and helped create and re-tell our brand story.”
Pirate Sound, as it’s now officially known, just moved into its new office and state-of-the art studio space in downtown Toronto’s east end. The space embodies their passion for cutting-edge audio production, including the ground-breaking spatial technology, Dolby Atmos.
“Spacial audio is all about being fully immersed in a sound environment,” said Eymundson. “Rather than something playing at you, it plays all around and over top of you—a 360 degree experience.”
It’s what you hear in a movie theatre, but is increasingly being used by streaming services. “It’s only a matter of time before ads will need to be mixed in immersive 360 degree sound,” he said. By installing Dolby Atmos into all of its studios, Pirate Sound is now making ads that are “future proof.”
As for the branding, Broken Heart Love Affair was guided by Pirate Sound’s pirate radio inspiration.
“Just like their predecessors, Pirate Sound emulates the same will and gusto,” said Rasna Jaswal, who was the design creative director on the project. ”They are our saviours of stories, told through sound.”
With that origin story as their starting point, BHLA came up with a logo and stripped-down black-and-white positioning anchored by morse code.
“[M]orse code is a universal audio language that also translates into a visual tool through dots and dashes,” said Jaswal. “We loved the simple use of black and white, dots and dashes, and a mono sans serif typeface. These curated elements together helped create a unique visual system beyond the logo.”
While a lot has changed at Pirate Sound, what hasn’t changed is the founders’ commitment to the craft and quality that made them famous—they’re just more prepared for the industry changes that lie ahead.
“As brands chase cheaper and faster outputs, we risk losing great sound,” said Eymundson. “And when we lose great sound, we lose our ability to tell powerful stories. Pirate Sound is on a mission to keep great stories alive by casting the most diversely talented and seasoned sound directors, producers and composers in our field.”