Music Branding and Design
Design creates a visual way for the listener to interpret the artist, adding another layer of interest and meaning to music. What makes an album design successful or not? What causes listeners to connect with the artist? These questions are where my research started and it led me to explore what creates a fandom or following, different approaches to CD sales and packaging, and what listeners are looking for in the visuals an artist creates.
Fandom as Community
The main concept revolved around the idea of fandom as a community. Fans find solace in the fact that there are like-minded people out there who share their interests. Ultimately, the innate human longing for connection is what brings these people together, with this shared interest being a means for that. There is a form of intimacy among strangers, as you don’t have to actually know anyone to have a community and group to belong to. Fans share this unique experience with each other and that allows for them to feel connected, even if they have never met or will never see each other again. Creating fandom as a community has been the secret to success for many bands. Their music offers more than just an auditory experience, but also belonging and identity.
CD as Collector’s Item
The concept of the physical album is dying as streaming has become the main way music is consumed. However, surprisingly, in a world where digital streaming dominates music markets, K-pop’s physical sales have not suffered at all. According to South Korea’s Gaon Charts, South Korean album sales jumped 40% compared to last year and are continuing to grow. This is possible because their approach to physical albums is strikingly different than most western artists. For them, the album is a collector’s item: a way to reward the loyal fans who support the artist with their money. Albums are creatively designed, featuring beautiful art, photo books, posters, and limited edition photocards.
Music creates an auditory story for the listener to discover, both through the lyrics and through the instrumentation. Through a survey I conducted, it was found that people resonated more with an artist when their visuals and music video also contained a story. Whether an interpretation of the lyrics or something completely different that added new meaning, the visuals played an important role in how the artist was viewed and if the listener connected with the song. They wanted a cohesive story throughout all the deliverables, creating a world around the artist. This meant that everything played into the whole, from music video to album packaging, concert visuals, merch, and promotional materials.
Out of all my research, these were the three main things that I wanted to keep in mind when approaching prototyping. I wanted to foster a unique, community experience, create something collectible, and build a compelling and cohesive narrative throughout the whole project. Starting off, I picked a Soundcloud artist, eaJ, and used his existing body of work for my album’s content. I then prototyped different visual languages, packaging concepts, and animation styles, exploring different solutions for the album.
In approaching my project, the goal was to put visual storytelling at the forefront, making every aspect of the design tie into the greater narrative of the artist. When exploring different design directions, I focused on creating a cohesive moodboard that took into account photo and video directions, illustration styles, and color palettes. I wanted a concept that provided its own unique way of creating a world and telling a story.
For the packaging, I wanted to come up with a way to create a visual story with the physical CD. This prototype allowed for multiple flaps for the audience to interact with as they opened the box. This made the packaging have a narrative element, creating something unique, collectable, and essential to the story of the album.
When approaching the music video aspect of my project, I chose to go with animation, since I wanted to create for an existing artist and didn’t want to use found or borrowed footage. After creating my moodboard, I noticed that I leaned towards a hand drawn style since I felt it conveyed more emotion and fit the tone of the project.
With lyrics that explore melancholy, love and loss, the concept of the album revolves around a lonely astronaut, with these songs being the entires in his journal as he searches for belonging. The CD packaging is compact, using one piece to create the whole box. Its design allows forthe lyric book and other collectible items to be housed within the box. The simplicity of the folded design is very engaging and visually appealing, along with having a narrative element to it.
The lyric booklet is designed as the astronaut’s journal, with each page containing mementos and polaroids from his life. Though in a different style from the music video, the images and elements included reference it, creating a larger narrative about the astronaut’s, and the artist’s, life.
In order to make the CD a collector’s item, there is multiple items included in the box. Besides the lyric booklet, the album also includes photo cards, a rocket cutout to assemble, and a sticker sheet.
The sticker sheet allows for the album’s visuals to reach a larger audience, as stickers commonly are housed on people’s water bottles, computers, and phone cases, while giving the listener a fun way to interact with the album.
The rocket cutout takes from the music video design styles, giving the listener something for their shelf that acts as a reminder of the community and fanbase they are apart of.
The photo cards showcase the same style as the box and lyric booklet, with strong visuals that can be used as wall art for the listener, once again giving people a way to interact with the album beyond the music.
The merch combines the design styles of both the album and the music video, tying the narrative together. The designs are simple and not overly busy, creating pieces that can appeal to a wide audience.
Finally, the last piece of the project was an animated music video for the album’s first single, the Otherside. The music video process started off with character design. Then, the whole narrative was storyboarded and a guide video was created in order to know how many frames each clip would need. Then, the whole thing was drawn and animated in Photoshop and assembled in Premiere.