Small projects can lead over time in interesting directions, directed as much by the client’s needs as by what the client learns about us through the collaborative endeavor that is our work together.

We were brought in to name and work on the initial branding of a coffee shop that came to be called Mazarine, founded by a first-time entrepreneur named Hamid Rafati. As Mazarine neared opening, Hamid approached us about helping out in a new way.

We had already named Mazarine, worked on all its signage and menus and website, and developed its overall brand identity. Hamid knew that Marc Weidenbaum, Strategy & Content Director here, had a long history in music and sound, works on movie scores as a creative director, writes about electronic music, has had sound art exhibited in galleries and a museum, and teaches a course each year about the role of sound in branding. We had chatted about music on and off during the brand development. One day Hamid asked us if we might help come up with “the sound of Mazarine.”

We started off by exploring what that might mean, and came to focus on three essential elements: (1) the acoustic properties of the space, (2) the sound delivery system, and (3) what the appropriate music would be. We brought in an architect with a strong background in acoustics to help us with speaker selection and placement. And then we went to work on using music to reinforce the nascent brand that was Mazarine.

A key element of Mazarine was its emphasis on curation, on sharing with its customers special coffees from various esteemed sources. After talking through about a dozen different potential directions for the, we determined that we would use the music to reflect that particular strength of Mazarine’s approach. The plan was that each month we would choose one or two different independent record labels, and we would only play music from those labels: we would recognize record labels as, themselves, curators, and find a kinship with them. The genres didn’t matter, though the nature of the music did: We opted for instrumental music and songs in which the vocals were fairly muted, music that could support rather than dominate the experience of someone spending time in Mazarine. The labels we drew from included Stones Throw, Erased Tapes, Ghostly, and Leaving, among several others.

Like any such creative work, the project evolved as we proceeded. At first, we thought two different moods would set the tone over the course of an average day, one a little more subdued, for the morning crowd, and one more upbeat come afternoon. We ended up expanding to four: “dawn quiet” at the start of the day, “chill” as lunch passed, “alert” as the afternoon unfolded, and a newly upbeat “party” list for the after-work crowd.

We continue to work with Mazarine as their business grows, and love that certain songs — certain flavors of music — we hear on occasion remind us of the Mazarine sound.