In 2019, there were albums that made such an impact on me that I just had to design something for them. I’m an extremely happy person any time I can use my creative skills to celebrate things I enjoy. Last year, I did a Top 10 design series. This time, when I was putting together my list, I had to include 11 to properly capture my favorites of the year.
In high school, I was given a VHS tape with an assortment of band footage. The footage included some local high school bands and the North Carolina A&T State University Blue & Gold Marching Machine. This began my journey of buying, trading, collecting, selling, and even filming my own footage of marching bands. I had, and still have, a particular love of watching Historically Black College and University (HBCU) band footage from various schools across the country. I even joined a forum called Marching Central (which eventually became Showtime Magazine) in high school and became cool with fellow bandheads from all over.
New adventures in the land of music since the last Music Monday playlist.
From the moment I laid eyes (and ears) on her “Tightrope” music video in the year 2010, I have been in love with the creative tour-de-force that is Janelle Monae. She is my favorite music artist of any genre, any time period. She and the Wondaland Arts Society produce music that is so creative, exciting, soulful, meaningful, and exquisitely crafted. I devour any and all music that she releases or is featured on. Recently, she released her latest marvelous body of work, Dirty Computer, and I was inspired to create illustrations based on each of the marvelous songs on the album.
Similar to my 100 Songs Project, I listened to each song as I attempted to illustrate a corresponding visual concept. I sketched out some ideas that I thought would work for each track. From each sketch/idea, I went into Adobe Illustrator and came up with something I thought would speak to each track. Along with listening to each song on repeat while designing, I used the lyrics and breakdown from the website Genius as well as her own interactive tracklist with her listed inspirations. Some of the illustrations are also inspired the accompanying emotion picture she released along with the album.
Here are the 12 illustrations I came up with for the project.
1 – Dirty Computer – This one was a minimalistic illustration of the back of my MacBook Pro with a silhouette of an Janelle Monae illustration from her “Django Jane” music video (which you’ll see featured in number 5) replacing the Apple logo.
2 – Crazy, Classic, Life – This is an illustration of a frame taken directly from the Dirty Computer emotion picture.
3 – Take A Byte – A microchip branded with love with a literal bite taken on out of it.
4 – Screwed – This illustration is directly inspired by the lyric – “You f*cked the world up now, we’ll f*ck it all back down”.
5 – Django Jane – I drew this from the frame in the “Django Jane” video where she pans right for the angle.
6 – Pynk – Directly inspired by the music video and the pants the dancers wore.
7 – Make Me Feel – Inspired by the shades she wore in the music video and how she danced between a man (Mars) and a woman (Venus), hence the symbols.
8 – I Got The Juice – Juice box for the win! Using the Django Jane silhouette here too.
9 – I Like That – Made my own like icon on this one. Inspired by “Told the whole world, I’m the venom and the antidote / Take a different type of girl to keep the whole world afloat”
10 – Don’t Judge Me – A judge’s gavel crossed out.
11 – So Afraid – This one was the most challenging. I was trying to figure out how to visually represent fear. So, I took inspiration from the Scream movies. I utilized negative space for the heart shaped tongue, the teeth, and the tears welling up in the eyes.
12 – Americans – A good old-fashioned American apple pie! With equal signs all over the top. Using red, white, and blue.
Tribute projects are fun to work on. I am happy anytime what I love do can intersect with other things I am passionate about. Put time into design series like this is great practice for me and a way for me share what I like with the world – like the greatness of Janelle Monae.
One of the greatest events in the history of music was when Spotify began allowing people to upload their own feature images for their music playlists.
Probably going overboard with that statement but it still was pretty cool.
From that moment onward, I starting thinking of cool cover art I could make for my playlists. As a lover of playlist making, this added another element to one of my favorite pastimes. As a music lover and a design lover, the intersection of the two has always provided me with great joy.
Over the past few months, I have been making my Bobbie’s Music Monday playlists and sharing them on my social media. Each playlist is made up of songs that I had never heard before and really liked upon discovery. Every Bobbie’s Music Monday playlist has its own custom cover. Starting with the 4th edition, I designed a matching back cover with the tracklist for each one. Yesterday, I posted the 26th edition. I followed my usual Music Monday process with the latest.
The art for each playlist is usually inspired by one of the tracks or one of the source albums. Once I finish the playlist, I think about what I want the cover to be. The front cover is always designed first. The back cover plays off the front cover’s concept. With playlist number 26, I knew I was going to have “This is America” by Childish Gambino as the opener and “Americans” by Janelle Monae as the closer. So, I immediately starting playing with a minimalist version of the American flag. In Photoshop, I warped the shapes and then put some torn paper texture within the design. My Music Monday logo was overlayed twice: once right side up and the other upside down. I wanted to go for something that showed the American colors but warped and torn. Normally, my designs are very clean but sometimes I like to go abstract and even messy when the artistic mood strikes me.
The Music Monday playlist cover designs have been great design practice. They allow me to experiment with concepts outside of my usual work. Thanks again to Spotify for allowing me the ability to truly customize and be creative on the platform.
Few things excite me more in my position at Kappa Kappa Psi & Tau Beta Sigma National Headquarters than getting an e-mail asking me to design a new logo for a Fraternity or Sorority program or initiative. My love of designing logos is well documented at this point. So how do you think I responded to a request to re-design the Kappa Kappa Psi awards page with 10+ new logos?
Since deciding to take on The 100 Day Project for another year, I’ve made 35 logos representing 35 songs that I love. #TheCreativeBobbieHot100 has been incredibly fun to make. My Instagram is looking really nice nowadays and translating songs to logos has been a very rewarding creative practice.
I love marching band. I love graphic design. So, when I was approached by the Director of Bands at James B. Dudley High School to design a new logo for the band, I was very excited. However, this project would require me to illustrate a full panther mascot. This wouldn’t be the more minimal logos I had grown used to designing. I don’t consider myself an illustrator so this would be a challenge. But the challenge was well for worth it.
Last week, I talked about what happens when music artists invest in their brand. Like any other industry, investing in your brand increases your chances of success. To many people, album sales is a measure of success. How receptive your audience is in your latest project and their willingness to pay for pleasure of the listen will depend on how interested/invested they are in your brand. They buy the brand. The brand is you and each project is an extension of that.
Each project should provide an immersive, worthwhile experience for your audience. The overall experience is key. Particularly in this day and age, fewer people than ever actually buy the physical album release. So, for those of you still wanting to give people something tangible to purchase and enjoy, you had better make it worth it.