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Graphic Design’s Role in the Music Industry

Design and music, as anyone with even a passing interest in either knows, are inextricably linked. It’s fair to say that an appreciation of one undoubtedly enhances the experience of the other.

The connection between a designer and music used to be relatively simple, but now that music has become a primarily digital-first experience, and music’s visual side has moved from record sleeves to tiny icons in our playlists, for example, where’s the role of design today for musicians? Well, it’s everywhere—that’s the really exciting part. According to the Pew Research Center, “14% of online Americans say that at one time they downloaded music files, but now they no longer do any downloading. That represents 17 million people.” This is down to our relatively newfound love of streaming: the number of music streams doubled in 2015 alone to 317 billion songs. For designers, this means that artwork and visual innovations now have to connect to audiences in a different way.

Design can help the music industry, and the music industry can help designers.

The role of design today is probably more important than at any time in the business of music. Where a few decades back, billboards and print ads did the talking, today design is your opening statement, as most fans enter the world of an artist via some kind of image or video they almost scroll past on a phone or a tablet. So the visuals that go along with the music have to give some sense of story and idea. They need to grab and hold their attention.

So rather than lamenting the good old days, designers need to embrace the new. There are numerous design-led innovations that look to make music all the more alive and connectable through visual elements.

Design and creativity in all its forms are integral to music and how we consume it, and the same works in reverse. Both have the power to make cultural and societal shifts, big and small, and ultimately enhance the experience of being alive. Whether on a large or small level, that’s a very exciting thought.

To sum it up, graphic design’s role in the music industry is ever growing. What started off as just an album cover has evolved into interactive music videos, moving images, website designs, and even entire branding projects that communicate what the band or musician is all about. Digital technology has not only brought back artistic covers, it has introduced us to completely new and incredibly creative ways of design for the entire music industry.

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