5 things a band designer should never do
Hi there! My name is Kalie Wolfe, I am the singer of the group RIVALS and the owner of Ridgeline Media graphic design and I’m here to tell you about 5 things a band designer should never do.
I originally started Ridgeline Media as a way to generate income during the off-season as a touring artist with RIVALS, working as a freelance graphic designer selling pre-made designs – but soon found myself inundated with requests for custom work.
Since starting my business in 2016, Ridgeline Media has created designs for high profile clients such as Bowling For Soup, Falling In Reverse, Kodak Black, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, BlackCraft, Lil XanDiamante, (hed)pe, and many more.
As for art, I had been drawing all my life but never really thought about making a career out of it until I started RIVALS. I’ve done graphic design outside of my own band and had the pleasure of bringing other artists’ visions to life.
Today, I’m going to identify five things your band designer should NEVER do when bringing your vision to life. I feel like some of them might seem a bit obvious, but for those unfamiliar with or new to the artistic side of music, I hope they guide you to make sure you have a positive working relationship.
RIVALS, “Dark Matter”
Never provide free labor or grossly reduce your rate
I feel like it might seem difficult because we all have a limited budget, but like musicians, a lot of graphic designers charge what they charge because they feel like their time and work is worth it price. Designers spend years and years perfecting our craft; if we want to charge $500 for commission, lowering the rate to $150 is just plain demeaning – and will likely throw your client’s design to the bottom of the work pile. Yes, bargaining takes place and you may find a small discount or price reduction – but graphic designers also have to eat and pay rent – if a band hires a designer for a commission but doesn’t pay enough for their time, it’s maybe he doesn’t like what they get. The saying “you get what you pay for” is true when it comes to good design.
A graphic designer’s work is valued by their time and experience, and you may not be able to deliver work you’ll be proud of if you feel rushed or cheated on your rate. You may even struggle to find motivation or inspiration for the project. Respect yourself and the value of your work. You don’t have to accept all commission requests and that’s fine, which actually brings me to my next point…
Never ghost on the conversation
It’s okay if you can’t accept commissions! Please don’t ghost or drop the conversation on anyone. This industry is very small, and you never know when you’ll cross paths with an artist again, or if they’ll come back with a better budget and a better idea of what you can offer. A simple “Hey, unfortunately, it’s a little out of our price range” or “Hey, unfortunately after talking, I don’t think I have time to meet your needs within your budget”, goes a long way! A simple reply also keeps the other person from constantly pestering you with follow-ups.
Plus, you never really know when a customer might really like what you do and find a way to meet your price! (But again, don’t allow them to haggle the price too much). Be conscious of your time and make sure you are compensated fairly.
Never shoot in the dark (with ideas)
I wish I could add it more than once. Do NOT just start work without having an idea, a concept, or even the band’s favorite colors and fonts. The band should come to you with one type of idea or even a Pinterest board of other ideas inspired by their music, brand, style, and general vibe. As much as I like shooting in the dark (..No!), it’s very unlikely that anyone would like the first concept without any context in what the band envisioned for their work. So, for everyone’s time, be sure to receive some type of concept, idea, or inspiration.
There’s something about being able to see the style my client is looking for that inspires me as a whole! If you’re really stuck, try asking for the song or album you’re trying to order and the lyrics. The more information you get, the more inspiration you will find. Do your best to ask at least these details from the group before starting work:
General idea or design concept
Song or album link
Never start work without a deposit
I know, this seems standard to some… but for those who don’t understand why a graphic designer should require deposits, let me explain. Let’s say you’re approached to order an album cover; you begin said art with no questions asked other than an agreed price to be paid at the end. Then you spend 10 hours putting together a first draft and sending it out for review… but then the band tells you they don’t like your style and are moving forward with another artist.
A deposit would have covered all the time spent on the first draft of your work (10 hours); but without one, you have now wasted valuable time not making money, and perhaps your work is floating around the internet without any protection. Deposits cover an artist’s time and guarantee the time needed to work on a commission in general, and they protect us from the distribution of free works.
Never rush into the project
I understand; your client is excited, they want the job done fast because they want their music out fast… but a good designer will usually set a deadline for how long a design will last. Be open and honest with your client and state how long it takes you to complete a first draft. Stick to the schedule you know you can work in, try to avoid distractions, and don’t rush through your project or feel intimidated by your client into meeting an unreasonable deadline.
Art takes time, and bringing your vision to life takes time. Give yourself and your client time to communicate, review multiple drafts and revisions, gather feedback, and collaborate on improvements.
Thanks to Kalie Wolfe for these must-have tips for anyone working in graphic design and aspiring to partner with musical artists. Or with everything else you could do in the field of graphic design, it will all surely come in handy in your own career.
Follow RIVALS on instagram, ICT Tac, Twitter, Facebook and Spotify. Get your copy of their 2021 album ‘Sad Looks Pretty To Me’ here and head here to see all of the band’s upcoming tour dates. Visit the Ridgeline Media website to view the company’s portfolio and learn more.
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