MTV Video Music Awards

How do you translate music to visuals, creating an experience representative of a genre?

Role: Art direction, typography, visual/interaction design



Working with a team of designers, the prompt was to create an identity and system for the MTV Video Music Awards centered around Hop Hop.


Research included music listening sessions, and visual explorations into the genre and adjacent spheres like fashion to see how the music was represented and how the culture around  Hip Hop is presented and perceived.


Key to the identity is the idea of duality: The private vs. public personas of Hip Hop artists, the flowing of lyrics vs. the percussive beats they weave through, the challenges and obstacles of life and the rewards of making it big.

The design is big, bold, and energetic, like the artists of the genre. Much of the material designed specifically for the event uses a series of restricted color palettes (white on white, black on black, red on red), calling to the images of Hip Hop artists with white shoes, white clothes, white backgrounds and in similar set-ups. These color palettes are mixed on advertising and outside material in order to convey a louder, attention-grabbing aesthetic. The letterforms are strong, nuanced, and monumental; larger than life like the personas presented in hip hop music. They are also utilized to construct shapes that appear across the suite. In contrast to those strong forms, we utilized flowing lines throughout. 

The lines provide movement like the fluidity of hip hop lyrics and weave through the forms to add elements of surprise as they flow past. Like hip hop lyrics and their meanings, the forms are layered and manipulated in order to offer something fresh to audiences. The lines from the logo become a leading element to guide the viewer though pieces and provide a unifying element. Together with changes in scale and palette, they provide drama and surprise to pieces, keeping the design energetic and alive.


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