SON Hero

Making the difference:
Sonoton Music

How interdisciplinary, agile collaboration can transform brand and functionality.


  • Brand strategy
  • Brand identity
  • Interaction and experience design (UI/UX)
  • Innovation and service design
  • Digital product development

How do you capture the sprit and legacy of a brand which has contributed so much to the world of production music, and channel it into something remarkably functional but unmistakably Sonoton? This was the road before us as we began the journey to understand, distill and transform the Sonoton Music brand from the ground up—working hand in hand and building something true to themselves, but ready for the future.

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Starting the journey

We often describe how a person’s experience of brand is a mixture of what the brand stands for—its intention—and what an individual expects from the brand when and wherever they come into contact. It quickly became clear to us that for the majority of individuals today, the Sonoton Music brand and the product—an online production music library—are synonymous with one another. And yet Sonoton’s 50+ year heritage extends far beyond the search platform, from celebrated composers, countless labels, collaborations, pre-internet innovations…all of which have led to an industry recognition that rivals any big player who has followed them. So where do we start?

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For us, it begins with listening to the challenges facing the brand, exploring the movements of the market, and looking at how experiences further afield than just music production are changing users’ expectations about what Sonoton Music should deliver. Across multiple discussions, workshops and research explorations, we slowly but surely honed down to the essence of what the brand stands for, what it was built on, and what its aspirations are for tomorrow.

Our Brand Leadership Platform™ provided the framework for capturing what it means to be Sonoton, and laid the foundations for the path ahead to be purpose-driven, always coming from and paying in to the core of the Sonoton Music brand. It is this approach that allows every aspect of the business to be deeply intertwined with the brand and its aspirations.

This work was intensively collaborative—we believe that a brand knows itself, but sometimes must go on a journey of discovery, and we were proud to guide Sonoton Music on this journey, culminating in their new brand story and purpose:

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Experience Principles

We believe strong brands create experiences that can be traced right back to the core of their brand strategy and values, channeling these to meet the expectations of their users in the context of their lives. Our Experience Principles are the compass and springboard that allows this to happen. Four principles distilled the essence of what it means to experience Sonoton—honing in on focus, purpose, inspiration and celebration. These strong principles allow us to bring the essence of Sonoton into every interaction on a micro and macro level.

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Building the brand

The brand naturally needed visual expression and a product experience that met, perhaps even exceeded, both the users’ expectation and their own. The interdisciplinary project team at Sonoton Music, who represented every aspect of the company and its business—from technology, to music licensing, customer support, product, design and marketing, were all instrumental in equal measure to the definition and deepening of our early stage ideas into a fully fledged, completely redesigned digital service that it as usable as it is unique.

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The process—an exercise in collaboration

Across nine design and development sprints, we reinvented and iterated tirelessly on the strong functional basis that the Sonoton platform offers. This began with the writing of user stories on the basis of our user research, including user interviews, expert interviews analytics input, and functionality audits. The user stories were clustered into epics, and these epics formed the basis of our nine sprints. These stories were written and refined collaboratively with Sonoton, in order to achieve mutual understanding of the challenge and make sure all aspects of the experience were taken into consideration. These were then estimated in terms of complexity for concept, design and development, and prioritised accordingly.

The end of each sprint saw review and planning sessions to examine what worked and what didn’t, and decide what this meant for the upcoming sprint. The process had its intensive moments, but there is no doubt that the mutual understanding, commitment and co-creation had a huge, positive impact on the end result.

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What we built: The Sonoton search, reinvented

The result revolutionised the Sonoton Music search engine, catapulting the brand back to the front of the pack amongst production music search platforms. An unprecedented overhaul that marks the start of a new era in the company's history.

Pages showcasing the brand’s history, work and licensing model were reworked to focus both on clarity and information for the user, but also to reflect the dynamism and expertise of the new brand image. Features and user journeys rethought from the ground up to reflect both the unique needs of Sonoton’s users and the experience standards of today.

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Dashboard The place you can always return to on your search for the right music, the new dashboard spotlights Sonoton Music’s expertly curated and ever-changing playlists, but also invites users to explore features they may not have used, listen to the latest music in the library and dive straight into their current projects.

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Search results Familiar, and yet strikingly unique, the new search results page offers deep functionality without an overloaded interface. A list view supports power users to scan descriptions and quickly explore versions, whilst the grid view facilitates focus and exploration. Focused track and album detail views are at users’ fingertips to provide detailed information.

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Filter A prominent filter button—validated through user testing—puts the user in control of refining their search results. A click into the filters opens the filter card, and fades the background for an immersive look into the broad and powerful filtering options the platform offers. A dynamic button reacts to the user’s filter choices, showing how many results their chosen combination of filters will provide.

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Quicklist The quicklist is a new feature resulting from our user interviews. It offers a means of marking tracks of interest with the minimum amount of effort: a click on the heart will put a track into the quicklist, which can be reviewed at any time and sorted into projects or shared with others.

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Mobile design Whilst the platform currently sees an overwhelming majority of desktop usage, we created a mobile use case that provides the key features required for finding and saving music on the go. This was a design challenge in and of itself, which required the adaptation of certain features to preserve their essence and depth without overloading the experience on a smaller device size.

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