How Music Can Positively Influence Your Designs

by in Articles on 8th Oct 2010 · Comments

If you've ever had trouble getting a certain style down while designing, or you're thirsty for some fresh design inspiration, then use music to positively influence your designs. Music and visual design have a lot in common. See, visual designs have a certain vibe, textural quality, tempo of the arrangement, and an energy. The same goes for music: a vibe, tonal quality, tempo of the tune, and the level of energy.

How Music Can Positively Influence Your Designs


And the two go together beautifully. Unlike editing a film or doing something physical, you can easily listen to music while designing. The music you're playing can directly influence your design in a positive way.

Now you're probably thinking, "Are you kidding me - this is going to be the topic of the article? To listen to music while I work? I already do that, it's a no brainer. What a waste of text."

Hold on. This article isn't meant to just say listen to tunes while you work. Of course almost all of us do that.

No, the message here is that if you need to accomplish a certain design task - one that requires a certain style, mood, energy, spacing, whatever, then you can harness the power of the appropriate music style to achieve that goal faster, easier, and better.

3 Steps for Using Music to Influence Your Designs

1. Pick Music Appropriate to the Style You're Creating In

If you listen to certain types of music, it can put you in the right mood, or set the right vibe to more effectively create specific visual designs:

Designer Headphones

  • Grungy - industrial music
  • Futuristic - electronic beats
  • Sunny - bright tropical grooves
  • Slick - driving house music
  • And so forth

You wouldn't listen to futuristic electronic beats if you're working on a serene, organic, wood-based design. And you wouldn't blast acoustic folk tunes while crafting energetic, slick, futuristic designs.

So after you've decided what specific visual design style you're going after or are having trouble achieving, start playing the appropriately-themed music while working.

Seriously, it's not a tangible or easily-proven thing, but it really works. Just how the right music will fit and enhance the mood of a film (imagine upbeat jangle-pop rock in a brooding, dark horror film – it doesn't work), in the same way the right music fits and enhances your ability to create a certain visual style.

2. Use the Music's Rhythm to Drive You

The tempo and energy of the music you're listening to can help you achieve a certain tempo or energy with your design.

Seems like forehead-slapping obviousness, but bear with this step. This isn't meant in an abstract new-age-y way, but literally working along to the rhythm.

Meaning, don't just stop at bopping your head and tapping your feet to the beat, but type, draw, move elements in your design, and whatever else to the tempo as well:

  • Faster, more energetic music will make you create bolder, stronger, simpler designs.
  • While slower, pastoral music might make you create deliberate, detailed, smoothed out designs.

If you've ever gone for a run or worked out to music, you might have noticed how you run or work out faster the faster the tempo or more energetic the tune. It's the same here for designing, except now that you're conscious of this, you can purposefully put faster and more energetic music on when you need to create bolder, stronger, simpler designs, and vice versa.

3. Switch Up the Music Styles to Stay Energized

Don't have too much of the same type of music. Stay energized by throwing your ears for a loop every once in a while - a.k.a. Love Thy Shuffle Mode.

Too much of anything becomes monotonous. Even the loudest, most banging drum and bass tunes will wear you down and make it normal, not energizing. But intersperse it with some slower, chill tunes, then resume with the banging beats, and you're jolted out of a routine and fired up again.

Imagine a band playing fast tunes non-stop for the entire show, with no pauses in between. Too much, and the energizing effect wears off after a while.

The same for music you're playing while designing. True, you used steps #1 and #2 to select and harness the appropriate music in order to achieve your desired visual design style faster, easier, and better. But if you want to sustain that positive influence, you want to give your brain something different every so often to get a jolt and be re-energized.

5 Music Artist Websites

The following 5 popular electronic artist's websites not only look good but are examples of how just by looking at the visual style, you can tell what kind of music that artist makes.

How despite sharing similar traits (electronic, dance, beats) these 5 artists are drastically different, and the design of the website effectively reflects that.

Now besides satisfying your "awesome, I love lists and roundups" desire, why are you shown these samples of beautiful music artist websites? Because you can look and see why these designs work the way they do by listening to the artist's music, and then you just reverse the process for your own designs.

What I mean is now that you know the type of design that can be achieved by listening to, say, Basement Jaxx or Bjork, you can listen to that type of music to more effectively achieve that specific visual design style.

Basement Jaxx
Basement Jaxx

Bjork
Bjork

Fatboy Slim
Fatboy Slim

The Prodigy
The Prodigy

Royksopp
Royksopp

More Beautiful Music Websites

Music Can Positively Influence Your Designs

Hopefully you now see how specific music can positively influence your designs. That you don't have to limit tunes to something you play in the background while you work, but that you can consciously select a specific style of music and harness its influence to create your desired visual design in a faster, easier, and better way.

Music Can Positively Influence Your Designs

To refresh, here are the 3 steps for using music to influence your designs:

  1. Pick music appropriate to the style you're creating in
  2. Use the music's rhythm to drive you
  3. Switch up the music styles to stay energized

Now get out there, decide what specific visual design you're trying to achieve, then put on the appropriate music to get it done effectively.

Conclusion

Your turn: what kind of music has most positively influenced your design work? Do you have any other ways you use music to help with your designs?

Oleg Mokhov is a world's most mobile electronic musician. Born in Russia, raised in US, traveling the world, living unconventionally, making music, building a business.