Spring 2022

Making Waves: 50 Years of Music Icons


Poster Design · Modular Type Design · Photography

Graphic Design USA Award 2022︎︎︎
Graphis New Talent Silver Award 2023︎︎︎

50 Years of Music Icons is a celebration of the great pioneers of music featuring Ravi Shankar, Madonna, and Jimi Hendrix. My concept, titled "Making Waves", focuses on the lasting waves of impact these musicians left. This concept is explored through two diverse solutions in two series.

Ravi Shankar's cross-cultural collaborations with musicians across genres and continents popularized classical Indian music in the West. Madonna's versatility as a songwriter, producer, and performer defined the "pop star" and set the stage for countless solo female artists to come. A guitar virtuoso and more, Jimi Hendrix questioned when sound becomes music, creating a vocabulary from previously undesirable sounds, such as amplifier feedback and distortion.

Innovators of music, these artists made waves that forever altered the music landscape as we know it today.
Series A
Series B

Analog experiments

I explored different methods of making visual waves through the typography to represent the waves of impact and sound for the musicians. First, I focused on analog methods of manipulating the type.

Rule-based experiments

Another method of exploration I incorporated was through defining rules for a design system and working within those constraints. Working within these parameters, I created type experiments portraying the concept of the waves. The rules for each type experiment are defined below.

Deciding on a direction

Through this comprehensive ideation process, I arrived at an exploration using glass texture and my modular display typeface, which then developed into the first poster of the series.
The use of glass together with the display type create a visual metaphor that felt akin to the experimental waves of impact these artists left.

Building on the modular typeface

To account for Ravi Shankar and Jimi Hendrix, I had to expand the set of glyphs for the letters involved in the names of all three artists. The undulous forms of the letters reinforce the concept of the musicians' waves of impact.

Finding a typeface pairing

To pair with the newly created modular type, I used a monospace typeface, OCR-A. This typeface, with its low-contrast strokes provides a level of variance from the high contrast shapes of the originally-created display type. Additionally, the monospace quality of OCR-A works in parallel with the modular display face.

Colors to reflect each musician

I chose an energizing water-like blue for Shankar's sweeping hypnotic sitar. A highly saturated magenta was used for Madonna to show the power she had onstage as a trailblazer for female artists. Hendrix was a saturated lime green for his electrifying and intricate guitar solos.

Glass textures as visual metaphors

Different structures of glass were chosen to metaphorically visualize each artist's individual legacies and sounds. The textures were created by taking photographs of different glass pieces against a white background and controlled lighting.

The end solutions

Both mesmerizing and invigorating, Shankar's masterful Sitar playing is reflected in the ripple-like, yet geometric, appearance of the glass.

The display type imitates the contrasting organic and geometric nature of the glass and his music, as it holds its own structure while also obeying the forms of the glass.
The sharp irregular shards of glass breaking away to reveal her name surrounded by saturated magenta portray Madonna's explosive power as a performer and her pop music sound.

The type emerging from the glass dances across the page emulating Madonna's stage presence as a singer, choreographer, and dancer.
The columns of raised glass with contrasting areas of harsh shadow provide a gritty feel that reflects Hendrix's groundbreaking use of conventionally undesired sounds.

The horizontal movement of the type across the composition furthers the feeling of the many layers of vibrations running into each other.

Pursuing a second solution

While working with my explorations, I found another promising solution to my brief and concept using the vibration-like effect I created in my rule-based experiments. Interested in this direction as well, I challenged myself to create a second series to solve the problem in two distinct approaches.

Details on the expansion of this second series can be viewed by clicking below.