Look at the Music Industry for Fresh Ideas


Jessica Jendres

Almost every month, I come across at least one discourse about design becoming too analogous and there being no originality anymore.

While in some design spaces that thinking can be somewhat true (one instance that comes to mind is the whole debate on “flat human” illustration in the tech world), you don’t need to look much further to see a world of design that breaks pretty much every single rule of design some of us learn when building our foundation.

I’m talking about the music industry.

Merchandise from French DJ, Madeon

When you think about it, of course design that lives in the music world would be innovative and free flowing; it’s got to match the feeling of the music. Gone are the days of throwing an artist’s photo with some text in Helvetica and calling it a tour poster. Nowadays you can find the classic typefaces but with major or minor twists to them; anything that will give it that custom look.

Snapshot from Ariana Grande’s Positions lyric video

Personally, the first time I really took in the experimental design of music merchandise and album art was when Kanye West released The Life of Pablo. Now don’t come looking here for an album review, I haven’t truly listened to a Kanye song since Monster. When I first saw the cover art, I was so confused. Thinking *is this it? This is what money was put into?* Looking back at the cover art to write this, I’m so surprised at how influential this simple design is. Overlaying text with photography? One of my favourite design layouts. Duplicates of one line of text as a background or element? So common now in areas like Instagram stories and sweatshirts.

Kanye’s The Life of Pablo artwork

“Kids See Ghosts” merchandise from 2018

Stepping into more familiar territory, Porter Robinson, an artist that I’ve adored for quite some time also seems to break the mold in a different way as well. Several of his music videos for new releases differentiate from common practices. Take the lyric video for his single, Look at the Sky, where the text overlaps, becomes unreadable at some parts and has very wide tracking at some points. All of those aspects are frowned upon by design industry standards. But in the music space? It fits so well.

His love of creating a connection with fans is really prominent in the website that hosts an interactive game accompanying his music. Just another step above the normal of a typical artist’s website where you would be brought to a page to immediately be brought to either iTunes, Spotify or YouTube.

Experience his website here: https://www.porterrobinson.com/

Alongside artists who have their own visions when it comes to their merchandise, there’s also the artists that are a part of this new wave of design within the music industry. One that comes to mind is Kel Lauren, with their wild breakdowns of the grid and eccentric designs, it’s such a clean breathe of air to look at their designs.

Forget the rules, make the design part of the story.

Even if it doesn’t make sense at some points. Create chaos in design to fit the chaos of the beat; stretch the type to match the long note of the song.

Designers and artists should always broaden their inspiration scopes outside of their main workspaces, whether it be branding, packaging or digital. To help break the analogous mold, look to spaces where you get feeling just by looking at the design.

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