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Insights — 2 years ago

Bradley Pinkerton on Thriving In Music Design

Australian designer Bradley Pinkerton is leading a pack of graphic designers who have become embedded in, and now essential to, thriving underground music sub-cultures across the world; they are the creative authorities in a rapidly changing space where good design is paramount in any music project.


We asked Bradley to walk us through his approach to designing impactful music artefacts, from T-shirts to record sleeves.


Shop Bradley’s Roses Down All The Way long sleeve T-shirt here, available for a limited time only.

Everpress Team
Honey Dijon tour concept poster by Bradley Pinkerton

How did you get involved with designing for music clients?

I started out doing club posters for a friend in Perth, they were putting on a new night called “Lé Club” and needed artwork for each event every 3 months or so. By working on those posters while at studying at school, I was introduced to a lot of different people. This led to other work down the line. Word of mouth was really powerful when I started out so I’m always grateful for those first few jobs.

Bradley Pinkerton

If you could distil the essence of the perfect music flyer into 3 key points, what would they be?

The design must convey the attitude of the music. The design must have the same impact at different sizes (web posters, cover photos, printed etc). The design must communicate both the information and the artwork.

AJ Tracey 2018 Australia & New Zealand tour poster by Bradley Pinkerton

Can you give tips for any young designers who are looking to get on the books of their favourite record label?

Work on your strengths but also be versatile within your own style. Create a body of work you’re proud of and that reflects you as a designer. People will respond positively to authentic passion.

I try and take a more instinctive approach

How do you approach designing for a physical object like a T-shirt as opposed to digital designs?

Initially, I approach this in a similar way to start off with. Creating the base design, but in the back of my mind, I’m trying to see how this might look in a physical space. I have several mock-up versions of asset items such as different shirts, bags and records that I always use when making something that will be materialised.

Bradley Pinkerton Everprss T-shirt
Bradley Pinkerton’s Roses Down All The Way Longsleeve T-shirt

Seeing the design mocked up on physical items lets you know how it can look once it’s printed. You can see if some parts need to be scaled larger or smaller. Shirts are interesting because you have to always keep in mind how the body moves and proportions work. If something is too high it might not have the same impact as it just a bit lower etc. Having knowledge of printing is fundamental too and helps you work within that world.

What are some of the key learnings that have helped you develop your career?

Firstly, I’ve learned to take a very hands-on approach. I think there is a lot of computer-aided practices which can sometimes come off a bit cold and disingenuous, so I try to put a lot of human instinct into my work. Secondly, I failed a lot of my drawing and colour classes in art school, which put a cloud of doubt over my head if this industry was for me. When I think back now and I realise I often over-thought things which made it not very genuine. Now I try and take a more instinctive approach which involves embracing mistakes and imperfections.

Can you walk us through some examples of your work?

Warm Corona — Lyndon Blue

Lyndon Blue is a friend and an amazing multi-talented musician hailing from Perth but residing in Melbourne. He approached me to create artwork and design his first solo release ‘Warm Corona’ released through Healthy Tapes.

Using the word ‘Corona’ I explored and created a more cosmic narrative rather than the obvious beer connection. Using imagery and type I kept it quite DIY and hands-on which is reflective of Lyndon’s approach to music.

Jura Soundsystem – Monster Skies artwork by Bradley Pinkerton

I work quite closely with Kevin from Isle Of Jura records, I’ve designed the logo and all their releases for a couple of years now. In the latest release ‘Monster Skies’ by Jura Soundsystem I looked to incorporate a lot of world/natural imagery to echo the tone of the music.

For the release, I wanted to put a strong emphasis on journeys and adventures. I gravitated to using window shapes such as arches, circles and squares to see into the fantasy of the record. It’s almost as if the listener can choose which journey they want to take while looking at the cover.

Transmission One — Jura Soundsystem

Next is another record I did for Jura Soundsystem last year. ‘Transmission One’ is a large compilation of Dub, Ambient, Downtempo and Boogie with a focus on music never before released on vinyl. The compilation takes you on a journey through different sounds and I reflected that with stripped-down dot map.

For more tips on designing for music clients, head to our interview with Mad Decent’s Jackson Green.

Cory Edwards
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Cory Edwards