When seeking creative inspiration, one of the best places to start is looking at other artists. But don’t be limited to one medium, or one genre within a medium. Great design inspires across genres and different expressions have more influence on one another than you might think.
We saw this first hand when we partnered with Isol-Aid Festival and VistaPrint to launch Isol-Aid Homegrown: a 16-week program that provided financial and creative support to up-and-coming musicians. Partnering these musicians with designers from our community, they created the kinds of designs destined to become legendary posters and well-loved band tees.
Music and design go hand-in-hand
Like we mentioned above, you can’t separate music and design. Music is design—auditory design. And because style often spills out of one area of a person’s life and into others, it’s no surprise that so many style icons and iconic logos come straight out of the music industry.
A solid personal brand is a key part of being an influential musician. Think David Bowie. Post Malone. Cardi B. While music is the driver behind an artist’s persona, there are so many more elements that come together to create it.
That’s just one area where music and visual design intersect. Think about music videos and how they tell stories, sometimes creating entire worlds, in the span of just a few minutes.
Or take a look at all the visual arts movements that were inspired by music movements–and the music inspired by visual art.
On a more micro level, many designers find music directly influences the art they create. As part of our Isol-Aid Homegrown campaign, our designer indrah kh told us the impact music has on them, “Music plays a big role in my creative process—it came to me first, before graphic design. I used to be a busking musician in local cafes and to this day, I still have a passion for music.”
Defining a musician’s aesthetic
Just like any other kind of brand, a musician’s persona needs to connect with their target audience. That means the persona has to communicate what kind of music the artist creates, but be unique enough to stand out from others in their genre.
Think about how different rap albums’ cover art looks from punk albums’ cover art. While rap albums largely share specific motifs and other visual elements that link them as a cohesive genre, punk albums share a different, yet similarly cohesive, visual vocabulary.
Heck, there’s even a “metal font”:
What kinds of designs do musicians need?
While most musicians know that they need a logo, album art and maybe a website design to create their visual brand, there are actually so many more possibilities that musicians can tap into to market their music, such as:
- Social media page designs
- Merchandise. Some of the most common kinds of musician merch are:
- Hats (baseball caps and beanies)
- Tote bags
- Customized cases for their instruments
- Book and magazine cover art
When it comes to designing merchandise, what’s most important is that you create something that’s authentic to you.
Maybe that’s custom drinkware. Maybe it’s mousepads for your techy listeners. Maybe it’s rechargeable glow lights your fans can bring to concerts to wave during the slow songs.
For one of the Isol-Aid Homegrown artists, Lakyn, the designs weren’t just music merch—they were part of his new apparel brand, which in itself is an extension of his musician persona.
“I started a small clothing brand/skate brand made with all the same principles and philosophies that I base my music on, which is to go through life relatively stress-free and to feel good every day,” he told us.
“Soon after I started envisioning the future with my brand DaytonaFM, things started to pick up. I got back into the studio after months without recording and wrote a song about positively changing your perspective to see the world clearer.’”
Other artists sought designs for specific kinds of merchandise, like Charm of Finches, who wanted an illustrated poster design that could also work as the artwork for merchandise like band t-shirts and tote bags.
Giving back to the creative community
We mentioned it briefly, but here’s the whole story of Isol-Aid Homegrown:
The global pandemic was hard for all of us—even the most introverted of introverts. You remember those first few weeks and months, locked down in your home, learning how to navigate Zoom and find new ways to stay connected with friends and loved ones. The pandemic-induced lockdowns decimated the live music scene with musicians watching their tours, gigs and incomes vanishing before their eyes.
“The last 18 months has been quite turbulent for my music career, with many challenges, hurdles and setbacks to work through. I put out my debut single at the start of 2020, and had many plans to create momentum through the year with more releases and shows, many of which fell through,” said Chris Lanzon, another one of the Isol-Aid Homegrown artists.
In a bid to support these artists and keep the music playing Isol-Aid Festival was born—an online music festival where musicians across Australia performed live from their own homes. The reception to that first performance in March 2020 was so great, that the festival continued almost every week since, featuring both incredible emerging and household names.
Because we’re all about supporting creators, we were thrilled to partner with Isol-Aid and VistaPrint to launch Isol-Aid Homegrown. 20 up-and-coming musicians from across Australia and New Zealand were chosen for this program and joined forces with creatives from our global community.
For the musicians, it was an opportunity to collaborate with designers who matched their vibes to create perfectly on-point art to represent them onstage and off. For the designers, it was a way to connect with other creators and play a role in shaping their personas. For us, it was a look into what unfolds when two creative brains work together.
We watched the teams develop logos, cover art, postcards, merchandise and more. Take a look at each pairing’s unique story and the designs they created:
Check out 7 of our amazing collabs
Pop/folk rock artist Lakyn was quarantining back at home with his parents and working as a landscaper when he connected with Isol-Aid Homegrown. It was during that lockdown, where he suddenly found himself unable to make music after making his living touring Australia and releasing music for the past decade, that he turned to a new creative venture: clothing design.
In the project’s creative brief, Lakyn described DaytonaFM as a brand “inspired by vibrations.” He requested a design that looks hand-drawn or hand-painted and looks like a tourism advertisement from the 1980s. He even got specific about where he wanted the tourism ad to be for—Egypt. In the brief, he suggested palm trees, camels and pyramids as possible design elements to use, with one important, non-negotiable instruction: the designs had to give off positive vibes.
“I really liked this dreamy and juicy atmosphere that this project proposed to convey and I drew everything on the first day, and then I just added details. There was also a lot of freedom and this affects the process. Drawing this picture is like listening to a dreamy pop song or psychedelic rock with soft electronic elements, both drawing and music create rhythms that I like for their diversity,” Illia Kolesnyk told us.
Drawing this picture is like listening to a dreamy pop song or psychedelic rock with soft electronic elements, both drawing and music create rhythms that I like for their diversity
Nailing down “positive vibes” as a visual can be a tricky task, because what do “positive vibes” really look like? In their work with Lakyn, both designers chose to communicate these vibes with hot neon colors that suggested warmth.
Lakyn had fairly broad ideas for the design and gave the designers free reign to create whatever they thought would fit these wide parameters best, as long as they fit the vibe he was after. “The goal is to create a realistic-looking Egyptian holiday scenario, with a twist of fantasy. Hence the pool idea. As long as it gives off positive vibes.”
HotDogStudio discussed their design process as well, “The inspiration came from combining the idea of ’80s design and Miami-style neon signs. I feel like the chrome main logo gives it a retro look and suits the brief nicely. Music plays a role in most of my creative process, especially in the execution part, where I’m trying to get the right vibe with what I do. For instance, in this project, I listened to a lot of ’80s discos, lo-fi, and some city pop music.”
Bumpy, a soul/jazz/pop-inspired artist, found her career dramatically shifted when quarantine requirements went into effect. “At the beginning of the pandemic I was easing into the shift of a full-time musician,” she told us. “I was fortunate enough to have booked enough in advance to live on my sole income. Following on from that, the consistent rescheduling, cancellations and re-booking has greatly weighed on my productivity and has resulted in a lot of financial stress.”
But as a driven creative, she found a way to pivot and continue building her career from home and online. “The last 18 months I have been building my own home studio and adapting to online recording and creating content. It has been such an appropriate time to explore expression through production and recording, contrasting my prior experience which was predominately in live settings.”
Bumpy wanted a visually busy, colorful illustration that could go on clothing, tote bags and posters. Aesthetic-wise, she specified that she wanted it to feel feminine and fun-spirited, incorporating royal and potentially nature-themed imagery. She also requested that the illustration feature her name somewhere in the design.
Take a look at what illustrator rifally delivered:
The design responds to Bumpy’s brief with saturated colors and a rounded, balloon-like font for the text. The prominent pink in the image also marks it as feminine, another sense Bumpy wanted to convey.
“I found the basic idea of daydreaming, I made a sketch in my drawing book, after being sure of my concept, then applied it to a digital process. My design style is more pop surreal,” rifally said. We also asked rifally if they have any musical talent of their own and if so, how it inspires their work.
“Hahaha I have enough musical talent when I take a shower! I can’t play any musical instruments, but I like humming even though I forget the lyrics,” they replied.
Genes is a pop artist who’s been on the scene for about 18 months now and prides herself on being self-funded and self-managed.
Genes came to Isol-Aid Homegrown with a clear aesthetic vision: retro, quirky and fun. She already had a logo and art for her single “Cherry Lips”, so when it came time to collaborate with illustrator indrah kh, the project already had a clear direction.
Genes wanted a retro-styled thank-you postcard to send out with merch shipments, giving them a more personal touch. She requested a soft pastel palette in pink and blue, giving the design a soft, dreamy feel. The designer who worked with Genes, indrah kh, felt connected to Genes’ request immediately.
“This particular project immediately caught my interest in creating things that inspired me as a designer. I get inspiration from the atmosphere I felt in the ’60s-’70s era, which I always refer to. I didn’t experience those times firsthand, but when it comes to music and art, it’s those times that can be said to inspire me.”
Liyah Knight is a singer-songwriter who wanted a notebook cover design to tie into her upcoming project, “Travellers Guide.” Her vision for the notebook is for people to bring it with them as they travel across Australia—and beyond—as it continues to open up following the pandemic and write all about their adventures. For the design, Knight wanted a sketch-inspired, “diary doodling” aesthetic. She also wanted it to feel earthy and natural, perfect for trekking through the wilderness.
Liyah told us that the lockdown had a significant impact not just on her work, but how she works, “The past eighteen months have taught me two main things; patience and productivity. Having released my two first two singles during Covid, we’ve had to think outside the box a lot regarding recording, marketing and everything in between. While challenging, I think it’s impacted me most in a positive way because it’s taught me how to be adaptable and creative.”
The designer who connected with Liyah Knight to bring her notebook to life through design was kating egepe. He told us he was intrigued by the prompt right away:
“[It’s a] very cool brief. I immediately imagined depicting Australia and New Zealand in one picture. It was a little difficult to combine them. Liyah Knight wanted a work of art like a sketch using a pencil, and all the writing was written on directly, without using fonts.”
Liyah wasn’t the only musician involved in this design project, kating egepe revealed this when we asked about their musical talent, “I like music and I have a band.”
Indie-pop singer Ūla wanted an easy-to-recognize design that could go on merchandise and cover art. She also wanted something pink—something that perfectly fit her bubblegum, Bratz doll-like personal brand.
Originally a busker who found success on social media, Ūla found herself unable to continue growing her presence this way once stay-at-home orders were in place. For her, the pandemic forced a career pivot:
“One of my main income sources and promotional points I had was busking live streams on TikTok I did in the city—obviously this had to stop. Although it did cause financial issues, the most detrimental thing is the growth of my social media platforms got put to a halt. I can’t create and post the content because it involves singing outside which is quite literally illegal. For any musician to be successful they need to keep reaching new audiences and have platforms that continue to grow in numbers.”
Ūla had a logo already and suggested that the designer use its font in the image they created. She worked with hiden_work to transform her logo into a character-focused design she could have printed on t-shirts.
Notice how the design is fun, playful, and a little bit rebellious…a teenager’s ideal avatar. A musician’s persona needs to reflect their listeners as much as it reflects them. In other words, it has to be something the listeners can identify with and build an emotional connection to.
Designer hiden_work told us a bit about how they created this image: “ULA provides the main reference as a basis for the idea, but I did an exploration of the reference he gave. And I also did a little research on Ūla’s social media to get something that I could use as the basis for the concept.”
For me, music is not just background noise. It’s more than that—it comes from the soul and sets the mood.
They also gave us a look at their working relationship with music: “I always listen to music while working on a project because music really influences my work. For me, music is not just background noise. It’s more than that—it comes from the soul and sets the mood.”
For Chris Lanzon—and let’s be real, many of us—the start of the pandemic meant an abrupt stop to all the plans he had in place.
Chris Lanzon is a Sydney-based musician whose work focuses on self-exploration and self-expression. He recently released an EP titled “Far From Perfect” and wanted a cool illustration he could put onto hoodies to promote the EP. In his brief, Lanzon requested a design that incorporates text, an illustration of him and a few other stylized images. To get this design, he worked with two designers: Brierly and Anton Vertwen.
Here’s what they created:
The designs for Chris Lanzon’s hoodie felt hand-drawn and raw, giving it an underground indie feel. When we asked about the design process and designers’ inspiration for the project, Anton Vertwen said this: “I ended up with two visualizations, that both got in the final cut.
“One of these was a crooked drawing of Chris in this sorta innocent, child-like pose, with angel wings on the back and devil horns on the head. A dualism of man, as Descartes could say, or “he’s like, bad, but also good” as I would say.”
Brierly touched on how the DIY vibe of the design played with the screenprinting process they used: “To keep in line with the vision he has for his brand, the do-it-yourself vibe that screen-printing lends itself to just felt like the right way to go here.”
“This decision influenced the direction in a really fun way as we explored some different textures that would enhance the design. Screen-printing in some ways can be restrictive, so we wanted to use this to our advantage and work creatively within those limitations. We ended up trying some vintage half-tone styles, and in that exploration, we found our design!”
Charm of Finches
Charm of Finches, a sister duo who describes their musical style as indie baroque folk, chose to do an illustrated poster as their design. Specifically, they wanted a poster they could distribute in print as well as digitally.
What’s more, they came prepared with a clear vision for how they wanted their poster to look: an illustrated version of the cover art for their Wonderful Oblivion album. They specified that art nouveau and art deco, along with Pre-Raphaelite paintings and anything that feels elegant, clean and feminine were their favorite styles.
Illustrator hiden_work had a clear direction to take with their design and, with Charm of Finches’ guidelines, created this poster:
Describing their design, hiden_work said, “I wanted to move away from spot color illustrations with a limited number of colors. So when I got the invite for the contest requesting an Art Nouveau poster, I had to jump in.”
“Every concept and design of mine starts with a base sketch of the layout and elements. In this case I took two reference images the client provided and created a layout. The client loved the layout and asked to proceed with the illustration. I love involving the clients in the process of creating the artwork, meaning I keep them posted every time I make any significant progress in the design.”
Great design: the key to amping up your brand
It’s no wonder that our Isol-Aid Homegrown campaign has proven to be such a smash. When you successfully match music with graphic design, this duet is destined to be the headline act of any creative collaboration. They work together in sweet, symphonic harmony to communicate an artist’s personal style and brand to audiences, whether we’re talking about heavy rock or melodic K-pop.
After all, this is what great design does—it understands and communicates your brand in all its glory in the right way, to the right people.