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)

Creativity within Movie Posters: Parasite

Written by Steph Burns (3167495)

Recently, I’ve become quite bored with a lot of movie posters as I find a sizable amount of them formulated and lacking in creativity. Often times many posters, especially of the same genre, have the same colours, compositions and overall feel. For me, they just get lost in the saturated market and I often forget about them. On the other hand, if a poster for a movie is quite creative or inciting to me, I’ll likely be interested in seeing it, (which makes sense, as a graphic design student). This was a major factor in me seeing the South Korean movie, Parasite, last year. I initially heard about it after hearing so many positive reviews about the film. I then searched it up, saw the main poster for it and I knew I had to see it.

designed by Kim Sang-man, 2019
designed by Kim Sang-man, 2019

The poster is designed by film and art director Kim Sang-man (shown above) and features many important aspects to the movie, such as the rock, teepee, and the positioning of certain characters. Looking at the overall design of the poster, it’s unclear what the actual story is about. That’s actually intended, as the director advises the film is best experienced if the viewer knows as little as possible about the plot. Another important aspect to the design that adds to the mystery is the coloured bars over the eyes of each character; their eyes are concealed to further abstract the individual person and to show the initial equality of the characters.

official posters for Parasite from, clockwise from top left, the US, Vietnam, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia and Greece
official posters for Parasite from, clockwise from top left, the US, Vietnam, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia and Greece

The main poster for the film doesn’t change locally, but the title of the film and typeface changes depending on the language (shown above). Despite the difference, whatever typeface that’s used suggests uniqueness and a degree of tension. For example, with the English poster, the terminals of some end strokes don’t end in a serif while others do. It also features atypical changes in stroke weight that feature drastic shifts from thick strokes to tiny, curved ones. This creates a battle of balance between the letters that can be related to the major theme of the movie, which features a social commentary on class and the hierarchy between the rich and poor.

Additionally, because of the response to the film and the overall art direction within the original main poster, there have been many alternative posters made with I think are worth mentioning (shown below). Although the main poster uses photography, a lot of these alternative posters use illustration; I think that’s interesting to note as the majority of these posters were created as secondary to the main one. Perhaps there’s an underlying understanding that within this period, illustration is less marketable than the typical photographic and image based film posters that heavily dominates the industry. I think it’s interesting to observe the differences between these posters, but it’s clear that the concept of hierarchy is explicitly shown in all of them.

an alternative art poster from Canadian artist Marie Bergeron, 2019
an alternative art poster from Canadian artist Marie Bergeron, 2019
For the French Blu-ray release of the film, Korean artist Jisu Choi chose to represent the house of one of the family that plays a key role in the film
For the French Blu-ray release of the film, Korean artist Jisu Choi chose to represent the house of one of the family that plays a key role in the film
alternative art for the U.K. release, designed by design firm La Boca, 2020
alternative art for the U.K. release, designed by design firm La Boca, 2020
Alternative UK poster, designed by Andrew Bannister, 2020
Alternative UK poster, designed by Andrew Bannister, 2020

Works Cited: 

Curry, Adrian. “Movie Poster of the Week: The Posters of ‘Parasite.’” MUBI, 24 Jan. 2020, mubi.com/notebook/posts/movie-poster-of-the-week-the-posters-of-parasite.