Case Studies

Jay Song Studio

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Jay Song Studio is the purpose-built home studio of audio recording engineer and music producer, Justin Newton, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Justin is my brother and I’ve enjoyed working with him on various iterations of his professional branding over the years, including jnTracks Productions, Railroad Avenue Recording, and his current business name Justin Newton Audio.

Seeking to brand the new studio as a destination for great music records, Justin chose the new name as a play on his first initial and the idea of a songbird. Together we developed an elegant, flexible, and unique logo system based on this songbird-audio concept, refreshed and relaunched his website under the Jay Song Studio moniker, and even developed a simple introductory video to promote the new studio.

 

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Logo & Brand

Procreate using Apple Pencil, Adobe Illustrator

The primary Jay Song Studio logo comprises an abstraction of an audio waveform in the shape of a silhouetted songbird, with the brand name trailing in its wake. Contextual flexibility is achieved using multiple “lockups” (arrangements) of the “Jay Wave” logomark and the “Jay Song Studio” logotype, of which both pieces can also be used independently.

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CONCEPT PHASE — Early concept sketches inspired the visual idea of the audio waveform in the shape of the silhouetted jay, but the final design concept did not emerge before thoroughly developing several other, similar but distinct design directions.

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LOGOMARK — We explored numerous approaches for conveying the abstract visual combination of a jay and an audio waveform. The final shape is both simple (to afford scalability) and original (to promote brand ownership), all while remaining objectively recognizable as both a bird and a sound wave, according to a small group of polled viewers.

LOGOTYPE — We simultaneously experimented with typographical iterations, with the goal of visually integrating the logotype with the audio waveform metaphor without over-sacrificing readability. Our final selection accomplishes this with vertically elongated letterforms, and implied small-caps and drop-caps, to help parse the words without spaces. Subtly rounded corners complement the smooth curves of the Jay Wave logomark.

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COLORS — The Jay Song Studio brand colors come directly from the existing Justin Newton Audio brand, which remains the business name behind both brands. The implementation of the brand colors further enhances the visual metaphor of the audio waveform, as it is typically rendered in professional audio software.

 

Website Design Refresh

Squarespace, Customizations using CSS, HTML, and JavaScript, Adobe Photoshop

Photography, Video Production

Additional Photography by Derek Heidemann

I had previously worked with Justin to update the design of his existing website. With the rebranding under Jay Song Studio, we refreshed the website a second time, taking new photography of the new studio, adding a promotional video (see below), and using the opportunity to clean up some of the language and simplify the path for new clients to reach his business.

 

Promotional Video

Videography, Video Production

Music by Derek Heidemann

We also created a very simple promotional video to introduce Jay Song Studio on the site. I consulted on concept and script, and then handled lighting, direction, shooting, and video editing for the project. Music was provided by Derek Heidemann and edited by Justin himself.

The Gravel Project

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The Gravel Project is the creation of brothers, (guitarist) Andrew and (organist) Jordan Gravel. Described by The Boston Globe as "a night of rocking blues and funk jams," the Gravel Project electrifies crowds with inventive original songs, creative interpretations of well known classics, and high-energy group improvisation. A distinguishing characteristic of the band is the absence of a bass guitar, with Jordan's organ instead covering that sonic range.

The band initially approached me needing a sharp, professional press kit. We hit it off and went on to completely redesign their then-problematic website, and continued with artwork and package design for their second full-length album, Wishful Thinking, as well as merchandise and promotional materials for the band.

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Wishful Thinking LP

Adobe Photoshop, Skylum Luminar, Adobe Illustrator

CONCEPT — Seeking a vintage, 70s-throwback vibe but with a modern treatment, The Gravel Project had selected an abstract painting by artist Angela Chvarek for the Wishful Thinking album cover. The complex colors and patterns of the painting indeed feel very characteristic of The Gravel Project's rich, rhythmic, and moody fusion of rock, funk, and blues.

OUTSIDE — Using a horizontal adaptation of the band's standard logo, the typography is arranged in a "stripe" pattern, bisecting the artwork and wrapping around the eco-wallet packaging, as a way of contrasting from the circular pattern of the artwork without heavily obscuring it. Different pieces of information are distinguished using alternating colors, adapted from those in the painting, as well as thoughtful use of spacing and alignment. A scaled drop-shadow applied to the album cover typography provides a sense of depth, further separating the text from the painting underneath.

INSIDE — The typography inside the eco-wallet continues the pattern of clean, stripe-like alignments, complementing the repeated vertical strokes of the background (lifted from the corners of the original painting), and again using alternating colors and spacing to distinguish different types of information.

ON-DISC — The circular nature of the artwork fits the shape of the disc like a glove. To work around the central hole, the on-disc typography returns to the band's standard logo, arranged side-by-side with the album title, instead of stacked.

Website Design

Squarespace, Customizations using CSS, HTML, and JavaScript
Integrations with MailChimp, Bandcamp, Instagram, YouTube, SoundCloud, and SmartURL
Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator

THE PROBLEM — The Gravel Project felt their existing website was outdated, visually unappealing, poorly organized, and most importantly, difficult to manage. It was built using the WordPress platform, which powers very many beautiful and successful sites across the web, but it can be prone to complex maintenance challenges, causing the band to rely on a web developer for general website management.

THE SOLUTION — For The Gravel Project's new website we turned to the Squarespace platform, allowing for rapid development of a beautiful, rich site, that's easily updated and maintained personally by the band, on a modest budget. It also provides a mobile-responsive structure with minimal effort, which means that everything looks and works great on any device. Using custom code and third-party integrations, the foundational template is easily tailored to the specific needs of the band.

THE RESULT — The resulting design showcases engaging content with immersive, full-width photo and video backgrounds, while the navigational structure streamlines curious visitors effortlessly to the content they seek: highlighting new music from Bandcamp and SoundCloud, tour dates from Bandsintown, tour photos from Instagram, video content from YouTube, news updates from the blog and social media, newsletter signup with MailChimp, and smart links to major music distribution platforms using SmartURL. A well-groomed digital Press Kit is also prominently located in the main navigation, ensuring that important professional networking communications enjoy minimal resistance.

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Apparel

Adobe Illustrator

For this T-shirt design, based on the Wishful Thinking album artwork, the band rehired original artist Angela Chvarek to create a special adaptation of her painting using only four colors. This simplified adaptation was then converted to vector art and integrated with the band's logo, and the design was screen-printed using five different color separations, including white.

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Sticker

Adobe Illustrator

A circular sticker design was a natural choice for adapting the Wishful Thinking album artwork, opting for the band's standard logo—instead of the linear album version—for better visibility at small scale.

 The Gravel Project at the Extended Play Sessions April 12, 2018

Promotional Show Poster

Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator

This promotional poster was created for a very special, triple-act summer concert with The Gravel Project and two of their contemporaries. At first we experimented with converting the band's photos to an abstract artwork style, inspired by the Wishful Thinking album theme, but the band decided they wanted a photographic style to capture the real-life experience of their show.

To solve the challenge of blending three very different images into one cohesive design, the apparent vertical streaking effect was created by applying motion blur to the image backgrounds. A similar affect is used on the artist names, and the result simultaneously adds visual energy and rhythm, conveying the excitement one can expect from the show.

The design borrows a few visual concepts from the Wishful Thinking album style guide, including informational content arranged in a horizontal stripe, using alternating colors, and contrasting vertical rhythm behind.

 

Client Feedback

 
 

"Tye went above and beyond…professionalism, thoroughness and responsiveness.

The product that he delivered with the [press kit] was exactly what we had in mind. …visually appealing with great use of space and colors, and also very organized…

…I was even more impressed with the website… After listening to [our priorities], he completely understood our motivation for [the redesign]…and shared many creative ideas. He helped us achieve our goals of a more user friendly and visually appealing site…that directs visitors to the pages that are most important. Even when the website was complete, Tye went above and beyond again…with instructions on basically everything I'd ever want to use the website for. 

…I’d recommend [Tye] to anyone and everyone who needs a graphic designer and/or website designer."

— Andrew Gravel, guitarist/vocalist and songwriter, The Gravel Project

 

MLD Productions

MLD PRODUCTIONS

Brand refresh
Website

MLD Productions is a Boston area, startup digital media production company with a heavy focus on video, but also audio and photography.

The MLD team approached me to build their website, and in the process we determined that their logo needed a refresh to improve its readability.

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Brand Refresh

Adobe Illustrator

THE PROBLEM — The original MLD monogram had no separation between letterforms; the right stem of the M coincided with the stem of the L, which also directly connected with the D. This lack of distinction between letters lead many viewers to see "MD" instead of "MLD." The challenge was to eliminate this readability flaw while preserving the established aesthetic.

THE WINNING SOLUTION — Resolving this problem elegantly took thorough experimentation and iteration, eventually resulting in subtle separations between the letters that don't completely break the unified, monogram feel. The L is distinguished not just by separating its stem from the M, but by raising the baseline of the M (along with its central dip) to match that of a new break in the stem of the D. Each new gap between strokes is carefully measured to exactly the same tight distance, helping to maintain that cohesive, "attached" appearance.

COLOR ADAPTATION — To further establish the complete shape of the L,  the white-to-orange ombre is adjusted to the right, now beginning just within the D. To counter-balance this new asymmetry of color, and to supply extra nuance, an inverse ombre is optionally applied to the bounding box.

EMBELLISHMENT — A dim shading now fills the bounding box, intended to provide the monogram better contrast over light backgrounds, and to draw more attention to the concept of the box as representative of a movie screen.

 

Website

Squarespace, HTML, CSS, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator

PROCESS — The MLD Productions website was built using the Squarespace platform. This allowed for easy, fast development of a beautiful, rich site, that's easily updated and maintained by the MLD crew, on a very modest budget. It also provides a mobile-responsive structure with minimal effort, which means that everything looks and works great on any device. Despite the guiding nature of the Squarespace framework, there is little limitation of stylistic control or the addition of custom elements not included in the platform, given knowledge of web development tools.

STYLE AND LAYOUT — The site layout was structured around MLD's work, with the shape and behavior of each section defined by its content. Interrupted only by fine lines of white and orange—MLD's brand colors—the content is delivered front and center. The result is a clean, smooth, full-frame layout, affording a distraction-free website experience not unlike that of a personal theater. On supporting web browsers, the use of parallaxing background images (which scroll more slowly than other content) creates an illusion of depth, heightening the immersive, cinematic experience, befitting a company like MLD Productions.

Forging Reverie

Forging Reverie is the dynamic, expressionist rock band for which (disclaimer) I played the various roles of vocalist, lyricist, co-songwriter, and essentially also manager and publicist, for all eight of its active years.

As resident designer, I also assumed that responsibility, alongside that of creative and art director for all of the band's brand and promotional artwork, spanning two LPs, two EPs, and with a concept for a third, incomplete album in the works. The most ambitious of these projects was the LP Motion Canvas, for which most of the following work was designed.

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Logo

Adobe Illustrator

CONCEPT — The name Forging Reverie is meant as an expression of the artistic process—literally, "reverie" (i.e. inspiration, rumination, musing) "forged" (culled, crafted, sculpted) into songcraft. The contrasting tones of the two words reflect the band's habit of mixing aggressive energy with ethereal melodic vignettes. Throughout the logo, this dichotomy is echoed with intention by sharp, angular forms juxtaposed with flowing curves.

LETTERING — The letterforms were designed entirely without the use of typefaces, drawn in disparate, representative styles—rigid, serifed "Forging" over fluid, sans-serif "Reverie." In both words, the letters alternate in size, inspired by musical rhythm.

LINE ART — The minimal "FR Emblem"—comprising just the "FR" initials and the "flame/water" line-art to their left—was designed to optionally stand on its own.

Motion Canvas LP artwork
& product art

Photography, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator
White body makeup, acrylic paint
Portrait photography by Chehalis Hegner

The artwork for the LP Motion Canvas is the result of ambitious planning, collaboration, and budgeting. The final artwork selected for the cover, alongside several alternates, was composed before all of the materials were brought together.

CONCEPT — The "motion canvas" concept is illustrated by painting the band members white, as if part of a living canvas, with the logo painted by hand onto the fabric above. The white "canvas" backdrop is actually a giant patchwork of burlap, chosen for its affordability and thicker, more visible texture, in lieu of actual canvas' finer grain.

LETTERING — The album title is spelled in the foreground with beams of light apparently cast by an old-fashioned projector, held by guitarist Derek Heidemann. This effect was created using a technique called light painting; individual letter forms were individually photographed, using long-exposures and drawing with a flashlight in a dark room, then collaged together digitally.

On-Disc Artwork
& Hand-Built Packaging

Photography, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator
Acrylic Paint

SLEEVE FRONT — These simple DIY sleeves were decorated by laying them all out in a grid, and spattering them in a "Pollockian" all-over pattern, resulting in a unique design on each.

SLEEVE BACK — The backs of the sleeves bear the basic liner-notes, arranged and printed on a custom label, and adhered by hand.

LIMITED RUN — To top it off, only 100 of these were made, each hand-numbered on a backside corner. The result is an inexpensive, do-it-yourself, labor of love, where each unit is unique.

DISC — The on-disc artwork is an arrangement of the hand-painted Forging Reverie logo above a warped treatment of the light-painted album title, over a real canvas texture photographed separately.

 

Motion Canvas LP Poster

Photography, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator
White body makeup, acrylic paint
Portrait photography by Chehalis Hegner

The Motion Canvas poster was designed to celebrate the release of the album, using alternative images that didn't make their way into the album art design. A print of the poster was included in the bundle with physical disc purchases of the album.

 

Digital Album Booklet

Photography, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator
White body makeup, acrylic paint
Portrait photography by Chehalis Hegner

Taking advantage of the alternative album art images, this rich digital album booklet was designed to carry the lyrics and album production notes in a digital format, to be included as a PDF with digital downloads of Motion Canvas.

Motion Graphics

Photography, Adobe Photoshop
White body makeup, acrylic paint
Portrait photography by Chehalis Hegner

These motion graphics (or "cinemagraphs") were created for the title banner of Forging Reverie's website for the Motion Canvas release; the two images would alternate every several seconds on the site (see video below). This animated medium allows for the painted version of the band's logo to be "drawn" in the air, and the beams of light cast from the projector to actively shimmer in motion as they spell the album title in the foreground—effects intended create a feeling of depth and "life," evoking curiosity about the album's concept.

PROCESS — The animations were created frame by frame, using Adobe Photoshop—working backwards, erasing pieces of the painted logo, each frame—and drawing each beam of light from the projector and then adjusting its opacity, manually, for each frame.

Website

Photography, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Wordpress, HTML & CSS
White body makeup, acrylic paint
Portrait photography by Chehalis Hegner

PROCESS — Forging Reverie's official website was built using Wordpress. Starting with the foundation of a highly-flexible, blank Wordpress theme called Thematic, great control was achieved in styling a unique child-theme for the website.

CONCEPT — The site was designed alongside the release of the band's album Motion Canvas, so the aesthetic of the site is based on the same imagery as the album art. Site content is displayed on a giant, blank canvas, with the band members above, painted all white, as if, themselves, part of a living canvas.

One Idea EP Artwork

Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator
Original photograph by Sophia J

The semi-acoustic, live EP One Idea was released as bonus material with an expanded edition of Motion Canvas. The imagery corresponds with the lyric quoted in the artwork: "You're a bird without legs and I'm afraid of heights."

 

After the Crash Album Artwork

Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator

After the Crash is an unreleased album, named after Forging Reverie's first song written together. After a lengthy period of lineup changes and growth, the title and artwork were intended to signify a "re-ignition" of sorts, with a planned revisitation of the band's earliest material, updated and joined by new music.

The image is literally the surreal appearance of an open flame with its color inverted. The goal was to capture the essence of the band’s energy and drama, while touching on this concept of transformation. The lyric quoted—from the reinvented song In Effigy—corresponds with this imagery and, along with the band's logo, stands out by inverting the color a second time.

DIY Apparel

Shirts: Spray-bottle Bleach & Stencil
Hoodies: Hand-operated Silkscreen & Stencil

THE GOAL — Budget merchandise with an “indie” appeal.
Two custom methods for branding fabric by hand were invented, using stencils of Forging Reverie's “FR emblem." A side benefit of both techniques is that each piece results in a unique iteration of the design.

SHIRTS — Bleach is sprayed through the stencil onto the garment. Excess bleach from the stencil is dripped and spattered onto the shirt, creating a unique pattern on each.

HOODIES — The stencil is taped to a silkscreen in order to print each logo by hand. The black hoodies get an intentionally misaligned double print of yellow over orange, while the white get an extra unique spattering of blue, similar to that of the shirts.