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.  

How Spotify Helps Me Practice Graphic Design

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.

~b.

How To Design A Basketball For March Madness In Illustrator

March Madness, also known as the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, is the greatest post-season in all of sports. It’s one of my favorite times of the year. This time around, I decided to create a logo that celebrated it’s return.

The concept I had was a basketball in the center with brackets feeding into it. I started with the basketball since that would be centerpiece. A lot of things can be made in Illustrator simply by positioning the right shapes in the right places. I started with the circle. Once I applied the right amount of stroke on the circle path, I copied the circle twice. I positioned the two additional circles so the bottom and top curves, respectively, would line up like they are seen on a basketball. The two crossing bars were applied and positioned to complete the center image.

Cutting away the portion outside of the center was done in three steps:

  1. highlighting everything thus far and doing Object > Path > Outline Stroke
  2. drawing a new circle on top
  3. applying Divide Objects Below and deleting everything outside the main circle.

Step 1 was necessary because I used Stroke to create the weight. If I had attempted to draw the circle and Divide Objects Below in that state, the cut would have been incorrect. I didn’t want the blank center to count as something to cut. The circle(s) must be counted as rings and not full circles.

Cutting stroked circles vs. Cutting circle outlines.

The brackets were pretty easy. I just drew one bracket with the desired weight and copied the positioned the rest. I added the text “March Madness” in the center and used “Unite” Shape Mode in the Pathfinder window. I like to unite the vector paths to make sure there aren’t any small white border lines separating the different layers. Uniting the paths helps ensure that the concept is seen as complete and not an assemblage of parts.

After finishing this and posting on my social media, I saw an interesting thread. Carrington Harrison posted a March Madness style bracket of Kanye West’s best songs – the #KanyeMadnessBracket. Immediately, I started working on a Kanye version of my March Madness concept. I kept the same brackets on the outside and created a simple Kanye West illustration. I used a Kanye photo as reference and made the center image. I started with the head shape and worked on everything fitting within and around it.

Those glasses were chosen because they are iconic and easily recognizable as a past Kanye staple. I played with the colors and even made a graphic for my personal #KanyeMadnessBracket Final Four.

Big events breed big, creative ideas. Glad I was inspired to design a couple of ideas to add to the fun of the season!

~b.

How To Evolve The Look & Feel of a National Magazine

Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity & Tau Beta Sigma National Honorary Band Sorority promote the advancement of college and university bands. The organizations share a national headquarters and a national publication. The PODIUM is that national publication.

As Publications Manager & Multimedia Designer, this publication is one of my main responsibilities. Every semester (spring and fall), an issue of The PODIUM is produced and sent to chapters and alumni members across the country. According to The PODIUM Online, the purpose of the publication is “a show-window of the college band world” and “serves as a snapshot of the Fraternity, Sorority, and the college & university band at the time”.

Published across multiple mediums, The PODIUM articles cover a wide range of topics relevant to Kappa Kappa Psi, Tau Beta Sigma, and the greater college band world. Articles aim to educate, entertain, and inspire those engaged in the exciting world of the college band through the exchange of ideas, experiences, and expertise.

I’ve come a long way since I arrived in the National Headquarters in April of 2013. Before that time, I had never used Adobe InDesign before. Within months on job, I had to learn enough of the program to produce a 44-48 page magazine. Recently, the 9th issue I’ve designed was released into the world. Visually, I feel like this is the best one I’ve done. The Fall 2017 issue of The PODIUM is the culmination of subtle and not so subtle changes to the layout over the years.

 

The Cover / The Theme

Every cover I’ve designed reflects the theme of that particular edition of The PODIUM. I’ve written before about what a magazine cover is suppose to do. The Fall 2017 theme is the post-National Convention recap, which is the theme of most odd year fall issues. With this being my 3rd post-National Convention issue, I continued the tradition of using the official National Convention photo of the attendees. My initial idea was to have the photo cover the entire area and place The PODIUM logo within the picture. However, due to the dimensions of the photo, I had come up with a new idea.

I made two copies of the photo, with one serving as a background and another in the foreground. I overlayed the light to dark blue gradient (made with the same blues from the 2017 NatCon logo) onto the large background photo. I placed the smaller version of the photo on top as if it was a physical photo laying on top of a table. Drop shadow was added to the photo to help with the effect. I placed the official 2017 NatCon logo with the text “CONVENTION EDITION” at the bottom to put a stamp on this particular issue’s theme.

The Inside / The Articles

Throughout my years here, I’ve experimented with the design of the inside of the magazine in an effort to improve and evolve the magazine. I’ve altered the masthead, the calendar of events, and the From The Executive Director page. I’ve completely overhauled the table of contents and other elements, drawing inspiration from professional, entertainment, and other fraternal publications.

Subtle yet important touches include increasing the space between text columns as well as the space from the edges of pages. The additional white space makes the magazine cleaner overall.

In the Fall 2017 issue, I’ve arrived at an article format I really like. I gave the title text more weight and have an excerpt that acts as a preview of the content within. I’m very visually satisfied with this layout, which is still flexible throughout the magazine. The tradition of using one of the colors of the author’s school continues in this issue and work well in this new style.

The National Officers section is where National Leadership submits articles for publication. They usually promote national initiatives and/or provide important news or advice to members. I completely changed this section to be more readable with dark text on white paper. The blue top and bottom sections let the reader know they are in a different section with a different purpose. I always want to design something that is clean yet still distinctive. The author and their title moved to the top to make room for their photo. Having the officer’s photo beside their article puts a face to the important name, creating that connection for the reader.

The Result

I’ve gotten great feedback on this latest issue of The PODIUM magazine. It’s the closest to what I’ve always wanted to The Podium to be visually. Through trial and error, research, and the support of those who I work with I learned how to make a national magazine and then how to steadily improve it. I’ll always strive for greater design, clean yet creative, for the Fraternity and the Sorority.

~b.

Fall 2017 Edition of the Printed Podium Publication is now available to read online.

Case Study: Tau Beta Sigma Coda Program

Last week, I broke down the Kappa Kappa Psi Centennial Logo. Today, I break down the logo design for the newest Tau Beta Sigma National Program, the Coda program.

Have I mentioned I love my job? The opportunity to brand various initiatives of the Fraternity and Sorority is one I cherish.

Tau Beta Sigma National Honorary Band Sorority is an organization dedicated to the service of collegiate bands and the promotion of equality and diversity.

The sorority operates primarily as a student service and leadership recognition society whose chief aim is to assist the Director of Bands in developing the leadership and enthusiasm that they require of their band. Our goals are not only to provide the band with organized and concentrated service activities, but to give our membership valid and wholesome experiences in organization, leadership, and social contacts.

-from tbsigma.org

The Coda program of Tau Beta Sigma encourages sisters to work with the elderly population through music. It is similar to the Crescendo program but the Coda focuses on the elderly rather than youth.

Coda is a common musical term for the concluding passage of a piece or movement, typically forming an addition to the basic structure.

The program’s purpose is to focus on cultivating and continuing musicianship and music appreciation during the “concluding passage” of life.

from the Coda webpage on tbsigma.org

With the Crescendo logo, I analyzed the crescendo symbol on sheet music and thought about applying that inside the logo.

The final approved logo referenced the musical term, “a gradual increase in loudness in a piece of music”, by making each letter larger than the next. With this project, I took inspiration from the name Coda and immediately analyzed the coda symbol in music.

I recreated the general shape in Adobe Illustrator and added custom laurel leaves on the shape. On the inside, instead of just having 2 straight lines intersecting, I played with the idea of placing a baton in the middle. The baton is seen throughout the official Tau Beta Sigma visual brand identity, which I also worked on.

I was right on the money with the direction I went, according the National Council! They asked me to extend the axis of the lines to mimic more of the traditional coda sign and try the baton pointing up instead of down.

 

Making those changes really enhanced the overall visual. Extending the axis of the lines made the reference to the musical coda symbol more concrete. The baton is now pointing up from a more active perspective. The text below the logo is in the Playfair Display font, one of the official fonts chosen by the Sorority for use. After all the adjustments were made, the logo was approved!

Purpose driven design will always be my favorite thing to see and do.

~b.

Case Study: Kappa Kappa Psi Centennial Logo

Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity was founded on the campus of Oklahoma A&M College (now Oklahoma State University) in Stillwater, Oklahoma on November 27, 1919. At this year’s National Convention, with 2019 approaching, we kicked off the countdown to the centennial! To do this, we needed a logo that would be the centerpiece of all centennial branding and promotion.

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How I Designed The Brand For A National Convention

This year (2017) will make my 2nd National Convention I’ve designed materials for from start to finish. I’ll be following much of the same blueprint this year as I did back in 2015 when I came face-to-face with…

“The biggest project I’ve ever done.”

A quote I have used with increased frequency since becoming the Publications Manager & Multimedia Designer at the National Headquarters of the national band fraternity, Kappa Kappa Psi, and the national band sorority, Tau Beta Sigma.

4 Ways To Use Instagram’s Multiple Picture Post Feature

Instagram continues to evolve and provide new tools. The latest shift came in the form of allowing multiple full photos to be used in a single post. Your followers can now simply swipe the initial photo to see the rest in that post’s collection. With any new social media tool, this creates new possibilities on the platform. Once I updated my Instagram app and started playing around with the new feature, I wrote down a few ways multiple picture posts could be used.

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How To Fundraise For Your Band Program With The Right Visual Branding

Fundraising is a necessary practice for band programs across the country, especially those that see their budgets dwindling. Programs that see success in fundraising translate the interest they have gained from performances into donations. Investing in brand building and communication is the best way to reach potential donors. If you want to fundraise with any success in 2016 and beyond, you need to invest in your logo(s), visual brand identity, social media, and overall communication strategy. Capitalizing on the power of your brand and communicating with clarity maximizes the effect of your effort.

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