Rihanna’s Super Bowl halftime show: behind the scenes of the stage design

Rihanna’s Super Bowl halftime show designer Willo Perron takes us behind the scenes of his stage design

Rihanna’s Super Bowl halftime show stage design
(Image credit: John W. McDonough/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

Rihanna's Super Bowl halftime show was one of the most anticipated musical events of the year so far. On 12 February 2023, the Barbadian singer appeared on a platform floating over the State Farm Stadium, her dancers similarly suspended around her; below stood an oblong red stage, which became the centre of the 13-minute musical pyrotechnics. 

The stage was conceived by Canadian, California-based designer Willo Perron, co-founder of design studio Perron-Roettinger and a regular creator of showpieces for the likes of Lady Gaga, Kanye West and Drake. Perron's collaboration with Rihanna started in 2008 and has included set design for her Savage x Fenty shows, as well as stage design for her concerts. ‘At this point, we are pretty well acclimated; there’s a lot of freedom to start and stop ideas,’ says Perron of the collaboration.

Rihanna’s Super Bowl halftime show: Willo Perron on the stage design

Rihanna's half time super bowl

(Image credit: Adam Bow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Says Perron of the Super Bowl halftime show stage design: ‘The main stage is this UV red with safety orange staging – I thought it would be nice to do something that’s brutally present and explodes. The flying platforms are all chrome which is great for picking up light – I wanted this to feel almost like a contemporary furniture piece.'

Rihanna super bowl concert red stage

(Image credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The design was informed by the location and event, but took cues from a larger pool of visual references: ‘I thought about the audience for this – obviously a lot of Rihanna fans, and then America’s football fans,' continues Perron. 'I wanted the materiality and colour scheme to employ a sort of American vernacular by means of transport: chrome reflecting the bumpers on vehicles, red and orange schematics representing iridescent roadway signage.'

Rihanna stage design at the super bowl half time concert

(Image credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The red visual theme was echoed in the costumes, which included a flight-inspired suit by Loewe's creative director Jonathan Anderson and custom Alaïa coats by Pieter Mulier. Meanwhile, the stage was wheeled onto the pitch and assembled at record speed.

'We had to reverse-engineer the performance in order to work within the limitations of the stadium and timing, to load everything in during a seven-minute commercial break,' explains Perron. 'I had to start with what possibilities were available within the limitations, which in turn informed the design and ultimately [Rihanna’s] energy.'


Rihanna super bowl half time show

(Image credit: Adam Bow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.