When you think about your favorite songs, one of the things that surely comes to mind is the cover art, the way an artist managed to capture the perfect image to reflect the present sounds. So why is it that such an important part to the culture is so neglected sometimes? We here at DatPizz see the importance of artists to the industry and are trying our best to shine a light on some of these unsung heroes. Today we have an interview with Bailey, an individual who has his hands in many different facets of the community. Check out what he has to say about art, his work and the lessons he’s learned during his career. You’ll definitely learn something and (hopefully) gain some appreciation for the guys in the background.
SUPPORT THE ARTIST.
So, who exactly is Bailey?
Bailey is a 22 year old male born in Virginia now living in West Virginia. I’m a self-proclaimed multidisciplinary artist, part designer/art director, part A&R/talent scout, and former artist manager/event curator.
How would you describe your art style? Where do you take inspiration from?
I wouldn’t really be able to define my style, personally, I think versatility and ability to execute in multiple lanes is more important than developing one set “aesthetic” or style. this isn’t to take away from other artists who have a set style, in fact i admire many artists who have a set style. The thing about having a style to me is that people “expect” something from you, repeatedly, but I want people to never know what to expect from my art. That being said, I’d call my art style “versatile” or “unlimited”.
A lot of my inspirations come from come from the world around me. As someone who plans on working in the advertising world at some point, I love studying billboards, signage, and just little things like the pages with as seen on TV-type ads in magazines. As well a few books that sit on my night stand.
You mentioned in one of your answers that you are a former manager/curator, would you like to give a bit of background on that?
Sure, I’ll offer what I can. I had encountered more cons than pros in my management history. Personally, it was easy for me to manage artists because I was an artist myself. The thing is that no artist is the same as the next, so not everyone operates the same, at the same pace, at the same level, and at the same degree. I used to co-manage an artist from the college I was attending and assist with his direction, it was less of a “getting him on show flyers” type of deal and more of a “who would the artist be best paired with artistically, what’s the best way for said artist to get seen on this platform, which songs should we not release and which ones should we?” type of deal. Another thing I did was helped pick artists to have on local shows and try and get them to network together. At this point in time I was very locally focused and was mainly trying to bring artists in a scene together, while having fun getting my art out and getting to know other people in the area.
So would you say you’re STILL locally minded, or have you moved towards a more internationalized form of promoting your brand?
Well, after I moved away from the scene, back home to a small town in West Virginia, I was kinda “trapped” into figuring out my own way to get my name out. This “trapped” feeling started to eat at me for a period of time, I was really struggling to figure out my next move for a hot minute. I was dwelling on that feeling and realized the only way to overcome it would be to “un-limit” myself. This birthed my little brand, ULTD, which is short for unlimited.
How would you describe this “un-limiting”? Was it something of a spiritual nature, or something entirely different?
I’m pretty sure this was around two New Years Eves ago. For years I had surrounded myself with people who primarily focused on impressing only the few people in the area they looked up to, it seemed few and far between really were focusing on impressing themselves with their own work. Luckily, eventually, I did this for myself. Became proud of myself and what I do. Not by working with the next big artist. Not by getting my work seen by hundreds of thousands or millions of people. Just by making things I was fully proud of. The “un-limiting” aspect of it was really just me no longer referring to myself as just a designer. I knew that I had other talents too, so instead of Bailey the designer (@koreadzn, Korea being a play on my last name, and “DZN” being short for design) I re-branded entirely to BaileyULTD, a more big picture focused creative.
With this new “un-limited” feeling, what do you see coming in the future?
There’s three or four things I definitely want to do in my creative journey and one of them is photography. I’ve always loved photos and how a picture can capture a moment and represent a whole series of hours or a time in someone’s life. I love the depth of photos and how they can mean so little or so much, and how they catch the eye. Realistically photography and design go hand in hand. Together with both these crafts together my possibilities are truly limitless.
What’s your creative process like, from start (getting a commission or deciding to design something) to finish (turning in or releasing the project)?
Well, my creative process only starts if I feel the spark. I don’t ever feel like forcing myself to make things, and the only time I do this is if a client pays a rush fee. I have to really just want to impress myself and I’m not always driven or inspired to do so. I never wanna over-saturate or rush my ideas when I’m making things so I just let the ideas come to me then I jump into it.
Let’s say, for example, I’ve been hired to work on someone’s art direction and full artwork for a release. At this point my first priority is to hook up my speakers and play the song(s) a few times over until my brain interprets what I hear. When i close my eyes, I ask myself, what kind of environment do I envision myself hearing this in? Is it futuristic? Is it nostalgic? How many layers do I hear? Like, is it simple or is it more complex? From there, I usually load Photoshop which has been my go-to program for years, and layout some text for the artwork, usually starting with the artists name, the song title, maybe the featured artist, and a producer. Moving forward, I love playing with my fonts. If the song is more intricate I’m more likely to pick a fancier more lavish Serif font, but if it’s a bold, in-your-face banger type song, probably gonna go for a bigger, likely bold, Sans-Serif. From there, I usually move the text around the canvas somewhere I like it best and make sure that whatever I put behind it will still be visible and neither the text or the design will overpower one another.
The actual imagery I use in covers often is based off of words in the song, symbolic images that represent the deeper meaning of the song, and sometimes, honestly, fillers. At the end of the day a cover art is a marketing utility. If the design doesn’t grab you, in my opinion, it’s ineffective. Literally, a cover art in my eyes is the same a billboard that you see on the highway, or a an advertisement you see in a magazine. they’re supposed to grab you. So my main focus is generally to incorporate anything relative to the song or meaning of the song that could grab people. Usually these things include, bright, contrasting colors, big words, little details, and good textures that bring the piece to life.
Once I’ve mentally finalized the design and text, my last two steps are texturing and and color correcting/adjusting. Mainly for this I’ll decide how dark or bright a song is. If a song is clean cut then I’ll use a very subtle texture. On the other hand, if the song is dark, violent, or generally grimy sounding, I’ll definitely go with something dirtier, darker, and move evil. Honestly, I source a lot of my textures from google, but I always tweak them before use. This is important to me because I don’t want my pieces looking like anyone else’s online, and this hasn’t always been the case, as there was a time in the past when I would just use whatever popped up first on google, but that is definitely no longer the case. Every single aspect of the design matters to me now. Texture tweaking for me could mean: combining two or more textures using blending, re-inventing them using content-aware fills, flipping, warping, cropping, inverting, and color saturating/adjusting, and much more.
My final step of the process is to clean it up overall with adjustments. Sometimes I export my covers to other photo editing applications, but most of the time I just trust the auto adjustments that are built into Photoshop, then manually adjust them as necessary.
Who would you consider your greatest art or design influences to be, and what effect have they had on your work?
I haven’t talked about this too much, but I guess I’ll let y’all know that I draw most of my inspiration from a case full of old cassette tapes my Mom had stashed in our basement. This is the same basement I started recreationally creating in four or five years ago. All of these dusty cassette tapes are very aged and vintage but the design style is so outdated that if i draw inspiration from these and pull assets and ideas from them they look brand new to this generation, but nostalgic to the older consumers. It’s a breath of fresh air for everyone! Some other things that inspire me heavily are the various different environments I find myself in, whether it’s a dark alley in a big city, a mountaintop overlook, or the lighting in a concert venue. Sometimes when I’m feeling dry on inspiration I’ll take a walk around my neighborhood and just listen to music and not respond to any texts. Just me and the scenery. Other things I like to consume for inspiration are podcasts, I listen to various podcasts about art and design when I’m feeling uninspired, but lately I’ve just been very into the music. I love how music makes me feel things and it’s almost like experiencing things that I’ve never been through. between us, and the few other people who read this far, you’re about to see a lot of work from me that’s extremely colorful. I think colors are very important to grab people and the brighter the better. A designer who does a lot of this is a woman named Kate Moross. She’s done stuff for like One Direction. Oh, and shout-out to Max Miedinger, he created Neue Haas Grotesk. You’ve probably heard of that font but not by that name. When Kanye said “sometimes i get emotional over fonts” I felt that.
What programs do you find yourself using the most to design, and what tools in those programs are most useful to you?
When it comes to design programs, sometimes my layouts start in Snapchat. Yes, that’s right, Snapchat. When I’m on the go and just wanna doodle up a quick idea I take a picture of a black screen and draw on it in Snapchat and screenshot it or save it to my phone so I can look back at it while I’m recreating it on my computer. I usually start with Photoshop and handle most of my work there, but on occasion I’ll import the product into other various Adobe software because each of them has their pros and cons. I’m definitely most comfortable on Photoshop though, I know so many shortcuts that it almost disgusts me how swiftly I move.
What’s been your biggest mistake in design or your career so far, and what did you learn from it?
I never JUST make a mistake without learning a lesson from it, so instead of highlighting my mistakes, I think it’d be better to use this platform to explain how to turn these mistakes around. My biggest mistake in my design career was making a lot of “friendships,” the best way to get started in my specific lane of design in my opinion would be to do fan art, or reach out to accessible but largely visible artist and make their graphics and get them seen. My mistake was doing too much free work when I got started, when I definitely should’ve got that first paying client and stopped doing free work. But when you’re young and naive it’s no big deal, lessons learned. Another mistake I’ve made, one of the only regrets I have from this, is re-branding so much. Young designers, just call yourselves by your government name (Seriously, nothing is more professional than letting your work represent your actual person, not some made up name) or something you truly love and won’t end up thinking is corny.
For someone looking at your work and wanting to break into the same career path, how would you recommended getting started on design and getting their foot in the door in the music world?
My recommendation on how to get started in design would be to build a portfolio. You can do this by making concepts, fan art, a few free designs so you have samples to show, logo mock-ups, etc. Your portfolio is your strongest asset, to me a portfolio is literally an extension of your creative mind, cleaned and polished to the point where it’s as appealing as it can be. You want that shit to be so impressive that when people see it they can’t turn away from it. Let me be one of the first designers to say that it does not matter how popular your clients are, that if your work is unique, it will stand out one way or another.
Where do you find yourself drawing motivation from?
My biggest motivation is myself. I always strive to outdo myself, and impress myself. If you all could see all of the designs I’ve scrapped because I didn’t think they were up to par you’d laugh at me. I’ve got almost a whole 1TB hard drive full of them. It’s all about progress, but don’t get discouraged when it’s a slow process. Good things take time.
Why has your work, to this point, primarily been covers for rap music?
Simply put, I think the main reason that I’ve ended up doing mostly rap covers is because it’s the easiest industry to come in young and youthful. Hip-Hop is truly for the youth and they’re the most accepting of young creatives, in my opinion. Also, the scene is pretty saturated, so there’s a lot of lanes and opportunities in this genre. With that said, it’s definitely not where I see myself in the long run, but I do love it nonetheless.
Yeah, so basically, I have become a little more involved over time with the whole little underground hip-hop scene, making connections and building friendships with people all over the country. One day I was just clicking through Illroots and they said they were starting a group chat on Twitter, and by chance I was added. After time went on I built a closer relationship with a few people at Illroots and made good friends with someone who eventually became one of their head editors. Eventually the group of us planned to meet up in Los Angeles, and this past July we actually met up, rented an Airbnb, and hung out for a whole week. It was amazing, and I ended up making some great new friends and got to do things I never thought I’d ever get to do. Now that Y’ve became friends with the people at Illroots, they’ve given me a few opportunities to do things through them that I’ve never even dreamed of doing. Although my connections with Illroots are great, my affiliation with Swidlife is a lot deeper. Three years ago I ran into a guy named Mally on Twitter who was running a Denver based blog and at this point he had already got his formula going but he had a problem, as if he had hit a ceiling, by focusing his blog solely on a single area, when what he didn’t realize is that he could extend his reach globally and cover all sorts of artists from around the world. When he came up with this idea he came to me and asked me to help with re-branding, so we did, changed up most of the formula, and now here we are a couple years later seeing more and more success each day. Eventually he hired me on as the full-time creative director for the brand, additionally assisting in things like content creation, promotion, and more. The last blog i’d like to mention is my friend Ricky Dolphin’s brainchild called “Casual Fridays“. Casual Fridays is a very unique blog, primarily focusing on underground street-wear brands, and other little-known creative company’s. What I do for them is mainly just a brand scout, I seek out different people and brands to promote on the platform, also helping with art direction.
What are your plans for 2018?
I don’t wanna talk too much about 2018 before I start actually rolling things out but this year I plan on rolling out a whole new website, I’m dropping my first of a few rare collectors items for purchase for the first time ever. Also, I’m looking to branch out into photography and videography!
Additionally, I plan on working with more designers, taking on less commissions, and dropping some more personal art
To close out the interview, is there anyone you’d like to shout out?
Thank you so much for this opportunity! Uhm, shout out to DatPizz for picking me up for my very first interview, the readers, all of my supporters and fans, my incredible girlfriend Jen, Eric G, Ricky Dolphin, Mally Mack, 5k!, Blazzy, Nipz, Skreenager, Nik 6, Newsouth, Mason, all my homies at Illroots, Swidlife, and Casual Fridays! Also shout out to RapFest, Audiomack, Digital-ism, all the blogs who’ve posted my artwork, anyone who’s given me creative criticism, and my parents. I’ve got a new website, new portfolio pieces, rare collectors items, and some more creative content all coming soon! Love