New Form of Graphic Design: Song Visualizers

Written by Steph Burns (3167495)

Within graphic design education and the history courses I’ve taken within the subject I’ve noticed how little video or motion graphics are discussed. Perhaps it’s because video technologies haven’t been around a long time if you take the entire history of art into account; for the most part the job of a graphic designer didn’t include motion or video for a very long time. As a result of this, I often think of graphic design as stagnant, when in actuality it can have many moving parts. I think in general, it would be wise to include more motion design within the history of graphic design as I am seeing a lot more use of motion or video graphics in the present day. Especially with the over saturation of our current digital world, motion is almost like the new way to attract attention to an object or thing that didn’t previously have it; often times motion or video elements will be implemented to draw attention to a piece.

Moreover, very recently, I have noticed a new form of motion video that has started to become popular with music artists. I think it’s worth mentioning, as it is a new way in which graphic design is starting to be used.  I’ve seen a fair amount of short video or motion clips that act as a “visualizer” for songs. I’ve seen some uploaded on YouTube, but for the most part I’ve seen this start to occur over the last few months on Spotify, which is the main way I listen to music. I’ve included examples of these below, but these video or motion clips appear as you play the song. It’s much too short to be a music video, but rather a short 5 to 10 second looping video that plays while the song is. You can’t view Spotify horizontally, only vertically, so these clips are made to the dimensions of the typical phone screen with the intention that it will loop play and add to the experience of listing to a song. There are many different types of these that I’ve seen, some are short videos, while others are cinemagraphs, but regardless, they all have the same purpose.  It’s also important to note that a large majority of people won’t view or have access to these short clips. They’ll only be available to the select people that have access to the internet and have access to a cellphone with a Spotify account.

Music visualizer for Dua Lipa's song Future Nostalgia, 2020 (screenshotted by me on Spodify)
Music visualizer for Dua Lipa’s song Future Nostalgia, 2020 (screenshotted by me on Spodify)

One of the first times I ever saw this mode of presenting songs was with Billie Eilish’s debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Throughout the entire album, for every one of the 14 songs, there is a short looping video that goes along with. Some of these clips relate to the lyrics or central theme of the song while others only add an ambiance. The very last song, which features lyrics from the previous 13 songs also has the visualizer for it take clips or parts of the previous 13 visualizers.

It’s also interesting to note that these visualizers are being made for albums that didn’t originally have them. Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly was released in 2015, but these clips (screenshots shown below,) have been made recently to add a visual experience when you listen to that album now, that wasn’t available before.

music visualizer
Music visualizer for Kendrick Lamar’s song Wesley’s Theory, 2019/2020 (screenshotted by me on Spodify) 
Music visualizer for Kendrick Lamar's song Alright, 2019/2020 (screenshotted by me on Spodify)
Music visualizer for Kendrick Lamar’s song Alright, 2019/2020 (screenshotted by me on Spodify)

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