Written by: Richy Jones
So, you’ve written a song that you then had produced, and recorded somehow. You’ve invested time, money and resources thus far and you’re excited to share your music with the world. Just one more thing to figure out… Your cover art!
Of course, cover art doesn’t necessarily need to be really complicated, but it shouldn’t be a mailed-in thing either. Even, if you ultimately decide to go the DIY route, this artwork will be the first impression your listeners have about your music. Proper consideration is advised.
Maybe, you’ve already come up with an idea and it's just a matter of how you’re gonna get it made. Or maybe you literally don’t know how to start the process of deciding on a concept, let alone getting it made and ready for your release. I typically fall into the latter category. Whichever scenario you find yourself in, it’s probably a great time to collaborate with a graphic designer.
If you don’t know any and aren’t sure how to get in touch with one, then here are a few tips, as well as the story behind one of my recent successful collaborations with a graphic designer.
1. DRAFT A GAME PLAN
Before you actually start reaching out to graphic designers, I would highly recommend taking a little bit of time to jot down some possible ideas. This could be anything from a vibe/emotion you’re looking to convey, to a detailed sketch that you would like the designer to work from. There are no real rules to it, but having something for the designer to go off of visually, and/or conceptually, will make the process much smoother. Doing this also helps communicate to the designer that you’re serious about finding someone for the job and not just wasting their time. Lastly, it’s a good idea to decide how much you're willing to spend for the artwork to be done. I wouldn’t worry too much if your budget isn’t huge right away. What’s important is that you have one in the first place.
2. SHINE THE “BAT SIGNAL”
Ask around! There’s a good chance you already know somebody who dabbles in graphic design as a hobby, takes on clients for a side hustle, or maybe they’re a full time creator. Probing your existing network of friends is usually the best way to start. I find instagram stories, and facebook status updates to be an effective way to seek recommendations.
Several months ago, I did just that, uploading a gray background with plain, green text that read “who can design some cover art?”. A couple of followers responded to that story in a private message. One follower, an old friend of mine, recommended a visual artist who he had worked with in the past. He asked my permission to pass my number to that artist, and he sent me their instagram profile so I could check out their work in the meantime. A little later, another friend of mine, Alexa, responded to my story simply saying “Me!!!”. My next question to her was how fast she’d be able to produce a design to which she responded, “Depends on how complicated it is, and what style you want! What are you thinking for it?”. We then decided to continue the conversation over text message, where I went into more detail about the ideas (which honestly weren’t many at all) that I had.
It's important for me to note that by this point in the process, that initial artist had reached back out to me. I thanked them for getting back, complimented them on the work I saw on their instagram, and let them know that I decided to go with someone else but would keep them in mind for future projects. It’s always good to respond to people and let them know if you won’t be needing their services. This communicates professionalism and keeps a door open for possible collaboration in the future.
3. COMMUNICATE & COLLABORATE
At this point in the process, my advice to you (and myself, for that matter) is to be open to ideas. None of us like to work with someone who is dismissive of our input, so let’s try not to be that person either, ya know?. Keep an open mind in the collaboration process, and you’ll likely end up with a graphic that exceeded your initial expectations. If they suggest something you’re not into, then you can always respectfully decline without being dismissive. At the end of the day It’s still your project and you’re technically the boss, but also like… You’re the one who’s asking for their expertise so maybe like… CONSIDER IT!
For the next couple of days, Alexa and I went back and forth over texts. I sent her an mp3 of the song and some additional theme ideas. She, in turn, asked me some guiding questions such as,
“What kind of style do you like? More graphic and cartoonish, or more realistic?”.
I hadn’t even thought about that level of detail, but after some consideration I gave her a sort of hybrid response.
“I guess I’d say more realistic, but cartoonish could work too. I’m thinking like, bold, elegant, and unique. That’s the aesthetic I’m hoping to cultivate.”
She countered by asking me if I was familiar with Kehinde Wiley’s work. (I am familiar, and if you’re not, then go ahead and consult with google real quick, I’ll wait). She said,
“It could be that kind of aesthetic, like a portrait of you with a crown in kind of a Victorian style.”
Shoot, I thought. Sounds regal and elegant to me! She had me send a photo of myself to use a reference. Easy enough. From there, she started sending me options of different sketches. Then there was the question of price…
4. NEGOTIATE A FAIR PRICE
If you’re working with someone who has a preexisting pricing scale for services they offer, then this part is pretty straight forward. Plus, it obviously helps you figure out quickly if you can afford their services or not. However, you may or may not still need to agree on whether you’re gonna pay before or after the service is rendered. This, along with the price is a point that varies from designer to designer.
Alexa and I agreed on a price and I requested a specific date for it to be finished by. In our case, the labor to produce the artwork began before I paid her, but out of good faith I sent the payment before it was finished (and it was finished on time by the way).
5. GIVE CREDIT
Okay, now you have your finished artwork for your release. You successfully initiated contact and collaborated with another artist to get your artwork done. Hopefully, you’re looking at a piece of art that you and the designer are excited about and proud to share. Before you post the image up on social media be sure to credit the creator of the artwork, most commonly done in the description of your post with a camera emoji and their social media handle at the least. This will help that graphic designer gain some more visibility and they’ll likely re-share it which will give you more visibility as well. It’s a win, win!
Your Friendly Neighborhood Graphic Designers
Natty Gorby: Instagram
Tyler Blankinship: Website
Blog Author - Richy Jones: Hey, my name is Richy Jones (they/them) and I’m a freelance creative holding it down in RVA. In 2017 I earned a bachelors degree from Virginia Commonwealth University with a discipline in music education. As a former school music teacher, I maintain a passion for sharing my love of music through various media. I’m happy to be apart of the HearRVA team, being a proponent of Richmond’s vibrant and growing music scene. As a hip hop artist, I record and perform under the stage name Qing Richy.