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5 Things a Graphic Designer for Bands Should Never Do, by RIVALS’ Kalie Wolfe

5 Things a Graphic Designer for Bands Should Never Do, by RIVALS’ Kalie Wolfe

Hello everyone! My name is Kalie Wolfe, and I’m the vocalist of the band RIVALS and the owner of Ridgeline Media graphic design and I'm here to tell you about 5 Things a Graphic Designer For Bands Should Never Do.

I originally started Ridgeline Media as a means to create income during the off-season as a touring artist with RIVALS, working as a freelance graphic designer selling pre-made designs – but soon found myself inundated with requests for custom work.

Since founding my business in 2016, Ridgeline Media has created designs for high-tier clients such as Bowling For Soup, Falling In Reverse, Kodak Black, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, BlackCraft, Lil Xan, Diamante, (hed)p.e., and many more.

When it came to the art side, I had been drawing my entire life but never really thought I’d make a career out of it until I started RIVALS. I have been doing graphic design outside of my own band and have had the pleasure of bringing other artists' visions to life.

Today I will identify five things your band’s graphic designer should NEVER do when bringing your vision to life. I feel as though some of these might feel a bit obvious, but to those who don’t know or are new to the art side of music, I hope these guide you toward making sure you have a positive working relationship.

RIVALS, "Dark Matter"

Never Provide Free Work or Grossly Discount Your Rate

I feel as though this might seem harsh as all of us are on a budget, but similar to musicians, a lot of graphic artists charge what they charge because they feel as though their time and work is worth the price tag. Designers spend years and years perfecting our craft; if we want to charge $500 for a commission, reducing the rate to $150 is just plain degrading – and will probably get your client’s design thrown to the bottom of the work pile. Yes, negotiation happens and you may work out a small discount or price reduction – but graphic designers also need to eat and pay rent – if a band is hiring a designer for a commission but not paying enough for their time, they may not like what they get. The saying “you get what you pay for” is accurate when it comes to good design.

A graphic designer’s work is valued by their time and experience, and you may not be able to provide work you will be proud of if you feel rushed or cheated on your rate. You may even struggle to find motivation or inspiration on the project. Respect yourself and the value of your work. You do not need to accept every commission request and it’s okay, which actually brings me to my next point…

Never Ghost on the Conversation

It is OKAY if you cannot accept a commission! Please don’t ghost or drop the conversation on anyone. This industry is very small, and you never know when you will cross paths with an artist again, or they come back with a better budget and idea of what you can provide. A simple, “Hey, unfortunately, that is a bit out of our price range” or “Hey, unfortunately after we chatted, I don’t think I have the time to meet your needs within your budget,” goes a long way! A simple response also lets the other person know not to continuously badger you with follow-ups.

Plus, you really never know when a client might just really like what you're doing and figure out a way to meet your price! (But once again, don’t allow them to haggle the price too much). Be mindful of your time, and make sure you are compensated fairly.


Never Shoot in the Dark (with ideas)

I wish I could add this more than once. Do NOT just start the work without having some form of idea, concept, or even preferred colors and fonts from the band. The band should be coming to you with some type of idea or even a Pinterest board of other ideas that are inspired by their music, brand, style, and general vibe. As much as I love shooting in the dark (..Not!) it's very unlikely anyone will like the first concept without any context into what the band has visualized for their work. So for the sake of everyone’s time, make sure you are provided some type of concept, idea or inspiration.

There is something about being able to see the style my client is going for that brings inspiration to me as a whole! If you are really stuck, try asking for the song or album that you are trying to commission for as well as lyrics. The more information you get, the more inspiration you will find. Do your best to ask for these details from the band at a minimum before starting the work:

Pinterest board
General idea or concept of design
Song or album link

RIVALS, "Dangerous"

Never Start Work Without A Deposit

I know, it sounds standard to some…but for those who don’t understand why a graphic designer should require deposits, let me explain. Let's say you are approached to commission an album cover; you start said art with no questions asked other than an agreed-upon price tag to be paid on the back end. Then, you spend 10 hours putting a first draft together and send it for review…but the band then tells you they don’t like your style and are moving forward with another artist.

A deposit would have covered all the time spent on the first draft of your work (10 hours); but without one, you have now wasted valuable time to make no money, and possibly have your work circulating around the internet with no protections. Deposits cover an artist's time and secure the time to work on a commission in general, and they protect us from giving away free work.

Never Rush Through the Project

I get it; your client is excited, they want the work fast because they want to release their music fast…but a good designer typically will set a time frame of how long a design should take. Be open and honest with your client, and communicate how long you need to complete a first draft. Stick to the timeline that you know you can work within, try to avoid distractions, and do not rush through your project or feel intimidated by your client to meet an unreasonable deadline.

Art takes time, and bringing your vision to life takes time. Allow yourself and your client the time to communicate, review multiple drafts and revisions, gather feedback, and collaborate on improvements.

Thanks to Kalie Wolfe for these must-know tips for anyone working in the graphic design field with aspirations to partner with musical artists. Or with whatever else you may be doing in graphic design, these will all surely be helpful in your own career. 

Follow RIVALS on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and Spotify. Get your copy of their 2021 album 'Sad Looks Pretty To Me' here and head here to view all of the band's upcoming tour dates. Visit the Ridgeline Media website to see the company's portfolio and learn more.

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