The Importance of Good Design for Musicians (and All of Us!)

Originally Posted by The Keene Music Festival
“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Good advice in regards to people, but not when it comes to brand identity.
Design is a handshake; it causes a snap judgment on your identity. Good design speaks loud, but bad design screams much louder. It’s what you represent yourself with and one of the first impressions you’ll make on your potential fans — aside from your music itself.
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Even when your music is killer, if your identity and branding is sub-par, you’re only hurting yourself. Think about the band t-shirts you see people wearing. For the vast majority of these shirts, they’re developed using standard graphic design practices and as such they’re shirts that your fans want to wear. In turn when they wear your shirt in public you get recognition, free advertising, and conversations can start about your band.  That’s the goal.
Unfortunately, most free shirts given out at events wind up never being worn, or worse, used as rags. Not because the owners don’t like or care about the cause or brand that the shirt represents, but because they wouldn’t be caught dead wearing such a bad design in public.
abb79020-642f-42d3-91d9-86412af15942So what makes your fans want to buy your album or merchandise? Above all, it’s your music, but coming in at a very close second — it’s how the whole brand image looks and makes them feel. What if someone has yet to hear your music? How will they judge weather or not they want to give your music a chance over the next in line? That’s right, it’s the visual design. Your brand image directly represents your music in either a helpful or harmful way. Let’s make sure it’s the former!
There are typically four kinds of music fans who buy what you’re trying to sell.  Supporters – your family and friends, Local Fans – folks looking for a keepsake, The General Public – everyone else, and the smallest of the group; The Die Hard Fans – the ones who will buy anything you throw at them. The largest of these is the general public.  You want your design to represent your style and genre. A solid brand identity will make you stand out, evoke positive emotion, and look down right professional. This will, if done correctly, grab the attention of that largest group.
Solid graphic design allows for a great first impression, makes you immediately recognizable, and makes you memorable.  A great visual representation of your brand will dramatically increase the chances that your posts on social media — accompanied by your logo, image, or touring dates — will be clicked on or that the concert poster you pinned up will be read.
The Stanford Web Credibility Project found that 56.6% of people make buying decisions based on the visual representation of a brand alone. When you have a great logo, a reoccurring color pallet, and the other parts of your identity set up and implemented well you also allow your brand to be immediately recognizable. Think of the Starbucks logo or the BestBuy logo, I’m willing to bet you can picture both the logos as well as the colors they use and vice versa if you see a particular shade of green it may cause you to think “Starbucks.” Solid design will also increase the likelihood that your brand is remembered and if it’s remembered, your fans will more likely talk to others about it.
Cheap design is more often than not bad design. I know, your brothers friend, uncles work buddy, or your guitarist may be able to put pen to paper and come up with something, however the depth of thought is generally not there. If it is, that’s awesome — but quite rare. After all the blood, sweat, and tears you’ve poured into your music, is it really worth the risk skimping on both your first and lasting visual impressions?
You can find more samples of Matthew’s work at