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Inside YouTube

Building the new YouTube sound, one note at a time

  • By Andrew Lebov
  • Motion Designer, YouTube Art Department
  • Nov.17.2022
Here’s how we created the vibrant new branding that plays when YouTube starts up.
Building the new YouTube sound, one note at a time
Here’s how we created the vibrant new branding that plays when YouTube starts up.

Welcome to the latest installment of our Innovation Series, a behind-the-scenes look at how the YouTube features find their way to your screen, as told by the people who create them.



If you’ve fired up YouTube on your living room TV recently, you probably noticed the new sound and animation that plays right before your app starts up. Ever wondered how something like that gets created and where it comes from? Well, here’s a peek behind the sonic curtain.

The initial idea behind the sound was to have something vibrant, engaging and easily recognizable, so that as soon as you hear it – even if you’re turned away from your TV or device – you know that something’s about to pop up on YouTube.

The initial idea behind the sound was to have something vibrant, engaging and easily recognizable, so that as soon as you hear it – even if you’re turned away from your TV or device – you know that something’s about to pop up on YouTube.

To help us out, we brought in the experts at Antfood, one of the top sonic branding studios. Together, we tried to spell out exactly what it was we were trying to create: something memorable, identifiable and it needed to be flexible enough for use across devices and in a bunch of contexts.

Crucially, it needed to work for the diverse, global audience that uses YouTube. We set out to design an audio that was:


  • Human. A sound that conveys the emotion, texture and organic imperfection of humanity.
  • Connected. A sound with musical gestures like melody, harmony and modulation that reflect the idea of connecting interests, people and cultures.
  • Expressive. A sound with dynamic textures and bright melodies, ranging from small to large, close to far and intimate to bold.
  • Story-driven. A sound that, even though it’s short, gives a sense of a narrative arc, with a clear beginning and end.


Here’s what we came up with. Take a listen:

Let’s break it down to its smaller elements to see if we’ve accomplished our goals:

Deep dive. The sound starts with rich, pitch-bending tones that signify the irresistible gravitational pull of YouTube. This “deep dive” represents a sonic threshold to the world of YouTube, where you can become fully immersed in the topics that interest you most.

Upward flourish. Next comes a vibrant upward glissando, injecting a sense of joy and playfulness. This element represents the excitement of discovering your new favorite song, a new creator or a new perspective on something you already love.

Melodic signature. Then there’s a two-note melodic phrase, which echoes the two syllables in the name “YouTube.” The organic timbre feels human and approachable, while the inclusion of melody makes the overall sound more memorable and even hummable.

Tactile motion. A subtle tactile element further grounds the sound in the real world, while creating additional forward momentum. It nods to the DIY nature of the YouTube community, and subtly evokes a door being unlocked, illustrating YouTube’s role as a gateway to the things you’re passionate about.

Sentimental harmony. And finally, a warm synth pad plays a major 7th chord. This harmony supports our melodic signature and represents the way YouTube allows you to explore the things you really love.

That’s a lot to pack into three seconds!

Of course, all this wouldn’t work without animated accompaniment, so we worked with Buck, a global creative company that brings brands to life through art, design and technology, to create a cool bit of animation. Once again, the sum is made of some well-thought-through parts:

Power Up

Power up. The animation starts with a quick CRT-style power up. This is a subtle nod back to early YouTube days. Its color shifts serve as a poppy attention-grabbing intro.

Playhead

Playhead. We quickly transition to an expanding playhead and timeline bar. This is a simplified, evergreen nod to YouTube’s iconic user interface. It’s here that we unveil the famous YouTube icon that resolves in the YouTube logo lockup.

Logo Lockup

YouTube logo lockup. We culminate in a punchy left-to-right motion across the playhead and timeline bar to form the YouTube icon, as the logotype slides into the YouTube logo lockup. This forward-momentum plays as an evolution of past YouTube motion branding.

Now that you’ve learned about all the elements, take another look at how it all comes together.

You’ll start to see the animation and hear the YouTube sound in more places over the next few weeks and months. Let us know what you think. We can’t wait to hear.