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Graphic Design Tips for Musicians

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Hand pulling a record out of a sleeve

Like music, the fields of brand and graphic design are steeped in emotion, beauty and meaning. Where design differs from music however, is in its basis in function and practicality. People interact with design everyday and by providing them information, it helps in the planning and carrying out of everyday tasks. At times, design goes beyond the practical, helping in the understanding and interpretation of deeper lying messages (like personality, values or emotion). Well-considered album art, websites, posters, and even software are just a few examples of practical design pieces that people make deeper connections with.

But how is it that these connections are made? And in what ways can music and design work together to help artists reach their intended audience? In this post, we will start to explore these topics and discuss how taking time with design strategy and planning can aid artists in reaching and finding resonance with their audience.

Parts of the big picture

I’m a designer in my day job, and spend most of my time designing products and services for businesses and their users. With these projects, my job is to not only focus on aesthetics, but also to create things that help people to do what they need to do.Like most successful companies, ambitious artists and musicians need a well-thought-out design strategy and cohesive brand in order to reach the right market. Good branding encompasses several areas, and helps the audience to understand an artist’s values, what they trying to achieve and how they are going about it. Like it or not, branding can and often does have a big effect on how potential fans perceive an artist.

To understand this topic, let’s first take a look at some basic branding elements. These may seem obvious, but what’s most important is to always consider these as part of the big picture. And while many design choices feel natural, or are self-obvious representations or extensions of your vision or personality (especially for creative types), it’s also good to think about how well they  will resonate with your audience.

The building blocks of  your brand will most likely include:

design in music

Branding an icon

To illustrate how these elements can work together to form a cohesive brand, let’s examine how a widely recognised artist handles this topic. Icelandic singer Björk is an interesting example. Not only respected globally for her music, she is also seen as an innovator. Why do we perceive her in this way? Is it simply down to her music, or is there more at play? Let’s take a look at her branding using the elements outlined above:

designinmusicpix1.jpg

The combination of these elements create a strong, clear brand. As an artist, Björk is seen as an innovative, forward-gazing artist with strong human values. Strong brand design and strategy supports and furthers this, helping her to interact and connect with her audience on a meaningful level.

Björk’s may be an extreme case, but it helps to illustrate how the level of synchronicity between design and product - natural or meticulously planned - can create a cohesive brand.

Zooming in

What practical learnings can we take from the branding decisions of a global artist like Björk? The most important one involves having a clear vision for your project. Creating a vision starts by asking what story or message is at the core of the project, who the project is aimed at and how they will interact with it.

When these questions have been answered, a cohesive design and brand strategy can be properly conceptualised.  As a base, let’s expand on the brand elements that we discussed earlier:

One last thing

As a final note, it’s important to remember that art is ever changing. Although a consistent brand is desirable, this concept is not static. Times, trends, music and audiences all change. Taking time to re-centre around vision and audience will ensure the relevance and quality of your brand and music.

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