Lauren Eppler, Music Noises Graphic Designer: Branding Tips for Musicians
By: Sherrilynn Colley

I had an opportunity to interview Music Noises Graphic Designer Lauren Eppler to get some tips for artists who may be interested in working on their brand and social media/marketing while they are dealing with COVID-19 self-isolation.

Eppler lives in a small town in Connecticut and is currently studying at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in a Bachelor of Fine Arts Program in Communication Design. This program has a strong focus on Graphic Design, but also allows her to study the basics of film/video, Illustration, animation, and UX/UI design. In addition to her education which has continued online, she interns and works freelance.

Some of her most recent commission work includes the logo design for a New York hedge fund company, rebranding Music Noises (Mi5Recordings Detroit) including their logo design and Music Noises Radio Logo, designing the masthead and magazine covers for Music Player Magazine, logo design for Girls Rock Windsor (Canada) and CD graphics for an artist from Mi5 Recordings-Universal Music Group, Christian Vegh’s newest album “Portrait of Sentiments” and branding for his record launch.

When I asked Eppler about her role models in the advertising field, she revealed that her inspiration comes from the works of masters like Herb Lubalin and Paul Rand. She also has great respect for Graphic design and Illustration contemporaries like Aarom Draplin and Chip Kidd, and added, “I tend to gravitate towards their simpler works with carefully selected accent color and use of negative space.”

Eppler listed three of her “Dream Commissions” in the music field as designing for Jefferson Airplane, The Doors and The Eagles. “I’d like to do a series re-illustrating some of their photographic album covers and seeing what styles of illustration would best fit the vibe of the bands.”

This up-and-coming graphic artist is not waiting to graduate to make a name for herself in the music industry and offers this advice to artists. “A lot of the same tips go for both graphic designers and musicians alike, practice whenever you can, make connections both inside and outside your industry and protect your intellectual property rights.” Eppler adds, “For designers, this means doing mock-up logos and rebrands before you even start working, focus on learning your software and building your portfolio as this is basically your resume.” Eppler feels that it’s important to always be making connections, “I’ve never applied for jobs with any of my current or past clients, they have come almost exclusively from connections with people and businesses that I have formed a responsive relationship with.” Eppler continues to share advice, “Lastly, but most importantly, make sure that once you’ve created work for a client that you protect your rights to use it in your portfolio, after all this, is work you’ve made and these visuals and samples of your work is just as important as your resume!”

Eppler said she loves working with musicians because they understand the value of the intellectual property and respect the creative processes, they also understand how much education, training, practice and effort goes into a project. “They don’t expect you to work for “exposure” and understand that you need to be compensated just as they do. They also respect the creativity and can usually express their vision for the projects that they are passionate about.”

Eppler explained the process for a commission and working on a project. “Typically, what will happen is a client will reach out with a project in mind and we will schedule a consultation. In this consultation, we’ll discuss the type of deliverable they want (logo, poster, album cover etc.), and the timeframe in which they want it done. This helps me give them a price estimate and a time table in order to schedule my work. Then I create a contract that will be signed by both the client and myself before I start working. Throughout the process, I will meet with them via email or video call to discuss prototypes and iterations of the work until they are satisfied with the results.”

When I asked Eppler how she has been affected by the COVID-19 virus and social distancing, she felt more fortunate than most but is still affected. “Luckily for me, all of my work is already done remotely so as long as I have an internet connection I can work. The less fortunate side is that the clientele I depend on are not always looking for design and advertising due to social distancing as many of these businesses are closed and individuals have no income of their own.” She added that during the downtime — a lot of bands and artists are using this time to focus on rebranding and starting new projects as the workload may be reduced for their employees. I am also lucky that my passion for dance allows me to stay fit by taking ballet masterclasses online while I am doing my part by staying at home. “Music is another important passion and I am discovering new artists and enjoying videos and live performances from home.”

Eppler had this advice for musicians regarding branding. “I believe that it is a myth that you have to have your face on the cover of your album in order for people to relate to it. This is only true if you are trying to sell your face, not your music. I’ve found that out through my favorite music, I have no idea what half of the artists look like but I still listen to them daily. I think musicians should focus on the vibe of their music and what that looks like portrayed visually, what colors does it feel like? What textures? Does it feel like a photo or an illustrated image?”

To test Eppler’s theory of album branding I googled the top 10 Iconic Album Covers (Rolling Stone – Readers Poll) and 5 of the covers did not have artists faces and the five that did 3 were Beatles covers (Revolver which was an artist’s drawing, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band which was an artistic collage and the famous Abbey Road album with the iconic crosswalk that eclipses a focus on their faces.

Eppler supports interesting covers and on Portrait of Sentiments had the musician hiding behind a mask yet shirtless and exposed, using a photo from his videographer and utilizing red light to stand out as a thumbnail. She also included another photo from a video shoot inside the cover for facial recognition of the artist, as well a drawing she had rendered of the musician and kept the cover theme for the back-cover music/credits information. “Oftentimes people will click on an album just because the album art is interesting, so keep that in mind. Lastly when designing a cover, you have to remember that on most music platforms you won’t have the luxury of a large album photo, your image will be no bigger than an inch so make sure your cover can grab a listener from a tiny image size, so color becomes critical.”

Eppler talked about some of her goals, “One year from now I hope to be starting an internship with a design firm such as Marquis or Opus in Boston. Five years from now, I would like to be working for a larger firm to build a clientele and ultimately, I hope to create my own online design firm/artist collective. My vision for this collective is to head up a company where artists can collaborate, critique and refer clients based on their needs. That might be my ultimate dream job, but I’d also enjoy a corporate position designing advertisements for Times Square, or out in Los Angeles at a major record label, sort of Mad-Men style.” Wherever she ends up, her drive, talent and her intuitive ability to read and understand her clients will guarantee her success and a very bright future.

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