Case Study by Anthony Furia RGD, Furia
The Visual Medium (TVM) is a Toronto-based collective of artists and filmmakers who create music videos and documentaries for bands, groups and solo artists. Having recently formed, TVM was in need of an identity and website to showcase their work. The owner of TVM had been involved in a previous project for a different Furia client and came to us by way of referral. To coincide with an official launch party, the project had a desired five-week completion timeline.
Objective & Audience
After meeting up with the client for coffee on three separate occasions, each lasting about two hours, we were able to establish a shared understanding of the project. We prefer long and loose conversations with clients that stray off topic frequently so that as much can be learned about the people involved in the project as the project itself. Standard discovery questions were asked to determine the client's background, project objectives, target audience, competition, the state of the industry, potential challenges etc. In our experience, no two clients ever answer a question in the same way, so ultimately, it is their responses that guide the conversations and provide meaningful information.
Following these conversations, Furia first helped TVM articulate the purpose of the project and its intended audience: “To attract music performers with the desire and courage to create bold and visually striking videos that cut through the noise of today’s over-saturated music industry.”
The following project objectives were defined to help achieve this goal:
- The design needs to express TVM’s commitment to creativity and artistry.
- The design should speak to the TVM process, complement the style and tone of the videos and look distinctive and carefully considered.
The client approved this design framework, adding only one further directive: to convey "Interpretive Surrealism". This is how the client described their process for coming up with music video concepts, keeping it intentionally vague, as a challenge to see what we would do.
Concept & Process
Directors at TVM begin their creative process by listening to music repetitively for long periods, often in dark rooms free from distraction, to let their subconscious organically interpret the nuances of the music and lyrics into a visual narrative. Concepts are then discussed and refined with the artists before a meticulously-planned production plan is developed.
By understanding all stages of the client's process, we were able to come up with the following concepts:
The logo mark is designed to represent the birth of ideas and images that surface from the depths of the subconscious while listening to music. The text rises from a dark fluid shape that serves as the abstract unknown, where thoughts form.
The black and white colour palette was chosen to represent the notion that concepts are the starting point of the process and require collaboration and refinement with the artist in order to be brought to life.
A condensed flavour of Univers was chosen for the logo type and various fonts from the Ideal Sans family were used for headings and body copy. The dichotomy of the two Sans—one precise and mechanical, the other imperfect and handmade—describe both the methodical approach and deliberate lo-fi execution of TVM's work.
Graphics for the website were inspired by the inkblot symmetry of the Rorschach test—a nod to our individual interpretations and experiences with music. Textual content of the website was interpreted into visual forms. For instance, the TVM tagline of “Audio Visual Cinema” was translated into an eyeball with a camera lens iris sitting within ears mounted on tripod legs.
The biggest challenge for this project was determining how video would be displayed online using a single still image. The purpose of the still is to entice the viewer by providing a taste of what is to come, but it can also deter someone who does not find the image interesting. Asking viewers to decide whether to watch a video based on only a single frame seemed unfair to both the viewer and the content producer. The design challenge was, 'How do we entice people to watch each of the music videos and provide an overall feel for the work?'
Drawing on the TVM process of visual interpretation, a series of faux media players were designed to embody the theme, mood and sound of each music video. The still was removed entirely, leaving only the play button set upon a black void. The overall effect intrigues the viewer through the lure of the unknown.
Feedback throughout the project was very positive and the client expressed excitement at each stage of development. This is attributed mostly to a lengthy discovery and conceptual process, an enormous amount of trust and creative freedom offered by the client and aligned beliefs between Furia and TVM regarding the power of design.
Initial web analytics indicate that the design of the media players has resulted in a high volume of website visitors clicking on each video.
- Talk with your client extensively to help them articulate project needs and objectives they might not have considered. In this case, six hours of conversation was conducted prior to concept development. This helped ensure a smooth, revision-free process for both client and design firm.
- Just because something is a common practice, doesn't mean it's the most effective way to do something. Relentlessly ask why.