Design and Music: The Important Link Between Both Fields

    The professional fields of design and music have crossed paths for years. Each constantly fueling the other through visual and emotional expression.

    Design and music, as anyone with even a passing interest in either knows, are inextricably linked, and honestly, you can’t have one without the other. They go hand-in-hand. Remember when the connection between design and music used to be relatively simple? Well now that music has become a primarily digital-first experience for the user, music’s visual side has moved from record sleeves to tiny icons in our playlists, the merch you pair with your music, and much more.

    What we’ll cover:

    • Overview
    • Paying more attention to album artwork
    • Giving your audience more than just music
    • Key takeaways

    Within the past 15 years, the process of discovering music has transitioned from record stores to music streaming online platforms. Historically, there has been a higher demand for a physical copy of an album (CD, cassette, vinyl). This demand created a niche for intricate design and packaging, used to stand out on the shelves. The demand for physical copies is no longer dominant in entertainment, but the thinking around some of the methods of marketing and design choices in visual identity may still be relevant. Answering the question of how to generate revenue as a musician and now as a musical brand through social channels, all musicians face similar situations; and though the solutions may be the same, each design needs to be different.

    What to keep in mind

    Better design can lead to effective results in getting streams and standing out from the crowd. Song streams aren’t entirely the result of nice visuals, but a part of the structural design operating as a music-based brand. 

    One might suggest taking a more nostalgic route and creating physical copies that allow for more in-depth design. Taking this route creates endless marketing opportunities, however, production can be expensive. In the past 10 or so years, there has been much more consideration to album art concepts. As it should be, since the album art is the face of the album, giving the musician the opportunity to connect with the viewer and communicate the artist’s message. Some of the recent innovations in digital album art have been made with regard to motion. Adding a layer of motion to album art allows for a more descriptive story for the viewer. This also creates a fascinating scene that is able to hold the audience longer than a still image. This makes the musical project memorable and holds the audience’s attention for a longer time.

    Remember… There is more to being an artist than just the music

    Recently, we have seen revenue from music being made outside of music sales (i.e tours and publishing), this includes a large portion coming from merchandising and other vertical integrations. Getting creative with revenue streams and diversifying your product is essential in our current economy. Now that you are less likely to make a profit from physical album sales, creating other features of your product is crucial. Having an interesting product to pair with like an accompanying t-shirt, hoodie, limited edition vinyl, or even a zine that walks your audience through your creative journey can help you stand out in a crowd of similar artists.

    Always remember…

    Consistency in the image is key when selling your brand as a musician. This mostly comes into play with quality, utilizing social media, and having an active professional presence is part of branding as a musician, just as any business. Using design consistently for a variety of outlets assures many avenues of entry to your product.

    These aren’t the sole solutions to success, but they are pieces of the puzzle. Assuming that your goal is to eventually make money and sustain yourself off of your talents, I am not speaking to the hobbyist who may be interested in this as a more expressive escape. For the hobbyist, there is no strategy and your goals are purely emotional. However, if your goal is to eat off this, there is a formula. Branding and highly powered visuals are only step one. 

    Key takeaways

    • Better design can lead to effective results.
    • Adding a layer of motion to album art allows for a more descriptive story for the viewer.
    • Having an interesting product to pair with like an accompanying t-shirt, hoodie, or even a notebook, helps you stand out.
    • Consistency in the image is key.
    • Utilizing social media.
    • Having an active professional presence.


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