Firedog details its dreamy campaign to bring The Barbican's classics to the masses

The creative agency take us through the creative process of conveying the emotional experience of attending a classical music concert.


Firedog has revealed its work with the largest performing arts centre in Europe, The Barbican. The campaign is based around a series of 'Dreamscape' photo-illustrations, which can be seen in programmes, brochaures and posters around London's Tube network.

Forming part of a three year campaign, The Barbican asked the team at Firedog to convey the emotional experience of attending a classical music concert at the venue. We were only too keen to undertake the challenge.

Benjamin Britten asserted that “Composing is like driving down a foggy road toward a house. Slowly you see more details of the house – the colour of the slate and bricks, the shape of the windows. The notes are the bricks and mortar of the house.” For us Brits, the image of driving down a foggy road is one we can well relate to. Even more so, when the end of summer brings with it a sense of foreboding towards the oncoming winter austerity.

At The Barbican this Autumn, there is no bleak forecast. Far from it. Creativity is flourishing, as the Centre celebrates the work of internationally-renowned composers such as Britten, Berlioz and Birtwistle. However, despite being packed with inspirational performances from world-famous orchestral groups, The Barbican’s real focus this season is not on the composers. The spotlight is on you: the audience.

While Britten compared the act of composing to looking at a house in bad weather conditions, The Barbican wanted us to capture the act of listening to these pieces and transcribe this into a visual, relatable form.


The focus shifts from visiting The Barbican with a specific artist or piece of music in mind, to a more general desire to experience classical music in its optimum context. Striving to eliminate the stigma that classical music only applies to a select, knowledgeable audience, we wanted to stress that everyone can relate to this genre.

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To appeal to a wider audience of music fans, the team needed to convey the colossal difference between listening to a piece of recorded classical music, and the sense of total immersion when listening to the same piece live at the Centre.


We came up with the 'Dreamscape', a series of landscapes reflecting the intensely diverse imaginative and emotive reactions upon listening to classical music at The Barbican. The Dreamscape encompasses the notion that when we listen to music, our imagination continually flits from one image to the next; the emotions evoked are equally disparate.


As the classical genre is so rich and diverse, it stands to reason that the more tranquil pieces might evoke a different visual reaction to a more upbeat piece. Add to this that no two members of the audience will have the same response to a single piece of music, and the difficulty of capturing one over-arching impression of the piece is made even more apparent.

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To signify the breadth of what classical music can bring to life, we juxtaposed images of jarring, urban structures with softer, natural landscapes. While the images retain soft hues of brown, lilac and light blue, each reveals the use of dense materials such as concrete or steel to offset this contrast.


We achieved the Dreamscape through using multiple-exposure techniques to create a series of surreal images, illustrating an ethereal place that has been created in the mind of the audience. Our focus on the mindset was paramount to creating a holistic, spiritual impression.


Closed eyes emphasise this and reiterate the dominance of listening over any other sense: the outside world’s intrusions are temporarily cast aside. Reinforcing this spiritual theme was our firm decision not to use models for the photoshoot.

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Complementing this, we designed, illustrated, and post-produced everything within the Firedog studios. This is the first in a three year partnership with The Barbican – watch out for the next.


The campaign has also been used on the Barbican's website.

Thanks for Hannah Franklin for her help with this piece.