Art and music share many beautiful commonalities. Both these creative expressions are so universally understood that, without words, they can convey feelings or tell stories that cross language barriers. So, when an opportunity arose to explore the two simultaneously, we couldn’t say ‘yes’ fast enough.

Song Exploder logo
Song Exploder is a podcast & TV show where musicians take apart their songs and tell the story of how they were made.

Hosted by Hrishikesh Hirway, Song Exploder is a podcast and Netflix series where musicians take apart some of their songs, piece by piece, to tell the story of how they were made.

From Norah Jones to Metallica and Gorillaz to Fleetwood Mac, if you’ve got a favorite musician, it’s likely Hrishi has sat down with them to discuss the processes and ideas behind some of their most iconic tracks.

With many musos among our team, we were delighted to work in partnership with Vistaprint and Song Exploder on a series of limited edition ‘tour posters.’

The project

The project brief was simple: create a stunning and unique visual representation that brings to life the very essence of the Song Exploder show.

With this theme in mind, Hrishi handpicked three graphic designers from our global designer community: Eliza Osmo, Skilline and Jen Se. Tied together only with the Song Exploder color scheme, each designer brought their own personal style and flair to the brief. With three unique concepts they managed to visualize the idea of exploding a song into its many components.

colorful illustrated posters for Song Exploder by Skilline, Eliza Osmo and Jen Se
Song Exploder posters by Skilline, Eliza Osmo and Jen Se (left to right)

Just as Hrishi does with his musical guests, we decided to go behind the scenes with the three designers to find out what their own creative processes were behind each of their stunning illustrations.

Friendly psychedelia by Eliza Osmo

With a professional Jazz saxophonist as a step-father, Eliza grew up in a very musical household. An experienced singer herself, Eliza was working as a jazz big band and restaurant singer before deciding to push her visual art career to the next level.

Still a keen musician, Eliza was already familiar with Song Exploder and excited by the opportunity to “finally combine two of my passions: music and art.”

Interpreting the brief in her signature ‘friendly psychedelia’ style, Eliza responded with two different concepts.

“This project was pretty challenging for me, because I wanted to ensure I captured the ‘essence’ of this beautiful show in a limited amount of time. I made about 10 rough sketches, and then took the elements that I thought would fit the best.”

Initial Song Exploder poster concepts by Eliza Osmo
Initial Song Exploder poster concepts by Eliza Osmo
Initial Song Exploder poster concepts by Eliza Osmo

“The first keyword that I transformed into an illustrative element was this ‘DNA plant’ concept that I’ve had in my head for a while. ‘Vinyl record’ was the next one, because everyone loves the warm sound of your favorite vinyl!”

“I wanted the whole piece to have this cosmic/psychedelic feel to represent the mysterious nature of inspiration.”

Thrilled with these initial sketches and their interpretation of the brief, Hrishi chose to combine Eliza’s intricate ‘living-plant-DNA-guitar’ concept with the vinyl elements. Once refined, she then settled on a contrasting colorway of the yellows and blues in Song Exploder’s logo.

Final Song Exploder poster by <a href="/profiles/elizaosmo">Eliza Osmo</a>
Final Song Exploder poster by Eliza Osmo

When it comes to interpreting a brief, Eliza credits ‘empathy’ as the most important element to producing the best results.

“I always start my design work from trying to get my empathy on the next level—I want to know what kind of person is behind the screen. Empathy is the key to any collaboration! From there, I gather references, make first rough sketches, divide elements I think fit the most and get to the ‘final roughs’. And then edits, more edits and sleepless nights until we get to the final piece, haha.”

Not too many sleepless nights, we hope, Eliza!

Dynamic monoline by Skilline

While this brief was a little different from their usual branding and packaging projects, Skilline’s signature monoline design style brought a really dynamic edge to their Song Exploder poster concepts.

The word ‘exploder’ was the linchpin for Skilline’s final illustration with a rocket launching into space being the perfect metaphor to signify music as a way of creative exploration and expression—unifying the poster and the concept.

Surrounded with elements such as trumpets, microphones, keyboards and music notes, the result is a mesmerizing visual representation of how sound can move you and take you to another world.

Initial Song Exploder poster concepts by Skilline
Initial Song Exploder poster concepts by Skilline
Initial Song Exploder poster concepts by Skilline
“I just imagined the ‘exploder’ and thought of something that can explode far into space.”

To develop the concept, Skilline dug deep on Instagram and Pinterest for their poster design inspiration and how they could incorporate musical elements into their vision. Skilline then sketched the design digitally using Photoshop before turning it into a more refined process vector.

Final Song Exploder poster by <a href="/profiles/1855178">Skilline</a>
Final Song Exploder poster by Skilline

The main challenge for them was how they could tie it all together with the perfect color scheme. “I really enjoyed the process! I loved playing with new ideas and new elements in this project.”

Humanized illustration by Jen Se

As someone who ‘can’t draw without music’ this brief was the perfect combination of two creative outlets for illustrator Jen Se. From Enya to The Smiths, smash hits from the 60s right through to the 80s, she has a favorite musician for every occasion.

Jen Se, whose real name is Džana Serdarević, took a different approach with her poster concept, diving into the mind of someone as they listen to a song, literally.

The poster shows a person with headphones on, and we can see what’s happening inside their head while they are listening—a guitar, a keyboard, a drum and a flower growing among them.

With a lot of her illustration work including humans, Džana is naturally drawn to the impact music has on us emotionally and creatively.

Initial Song Exploder poster concepts by Jen Se
Initial Song Exploder poster concepts by Jen Se
Initial Song Exploder poster concepts by Jen Se
“Music in our brain evokes various emotions that change and shape us. This inspired me to draw a head full of instruments that we hear and feel.”

But even with all the music in her life the biggest challenge for Jen Se was how best to present the simple, yet thought provoking nature of the Song Exploder concept. ”The brief didn’t ask for flowers in a vase or people having lunch together, the brief went deeper and I needed to sweat my brain in order to figure out the best concept.”

Final Song Exploder poster by <a href="/profiles/3211854">Jen Se</a>
Final Song Exploder poster by Jen Se

Once she landed on a concept, all the pieces fit together, creating a poster that is light, charming and exudes a serene atmosphere that takes you into the mind of a music lover.

Music and design: a perfect match

Music and design go hand in hand. While different mediums, the two creative outlets inherently understand one another. For artists and musicians alike, their craft and their style is often shaped by their experiences. And the results of this collaboration show just how powerful and beautiful it is when these two worlds collide.

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