An Illustrated Tribute To Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer

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.

~b.  

The 5 Mics Project: Using My Talent To Celebrate Greatness

5 MICS is a design series I started celebrating my personal 5 favorite MCs in hip-hop, the rappers whose music and style I love.

I analyzed their photos and pulled what I considered the most recognizable elements of them. Then, I sketched out what would eventually become simple illustrations of each. I created a general face/head template and then applied the unique elements on top of that.

Notice the Miles Davis one up top I did for fun.

Like with each design series I do, I created a system of presentation that would be consistent throughout. I took the microphone I made, duplicated it 4 more times, and put the mics in formation to be the 5 Mics project logo. With each MCs illustration, I drew additional inspiration from a project or other specific bit of information about the artist.

 

RAPSODY
“There’s levels to this but I’m a whole new floor.”
The colors in the background are inspired by the cover of her EP, Beauty And The Beast.

LOGIC
“But, I’m not defined by the sales of my first week
Cause in my mind the only way I fail; if my verse weak”

The background here refers to Logic’s skill of solving Rubik’s cubes at an incredible speed.

J. COLE
“Cole under pressure. What that make? Diamonds.”

His 2014 Forest Hills Drive album was the inspiration for the background.

LUPE FIASCO
“It’s hard being a Lupe fan, go to Harvard to be a Lupe stan.”

Background is “All Black Everything”.

BIG K.R.I.T.
“If it don’t touch my soul, then I can’t listen to it.”

The purple was inspired by the Cadillactica album. The lightning cut was inspired by Mt. Olympus. The crown refers to what K.R.I.T. means (King Remembered In Time).

One of the great things about being a graphic designer is having the ability to pay visual tribute to those that impact you. We should all use our skills and gifts to deposit as much positivity into the world as possible. The 5 MICS design series is just one example of me creatively saluting some of those who provide greatness to the soundtrack of my life and the life of others.

~b.

Case Study: The Dudley High School Marching Band of Thunder

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.

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