MFA Graphic Design 2021 Thesis 

“It’s a very empowering kind of music, heavy metal is.”
                                           —Rob Halford, Judas Priest.

Riffing on Design: Chronicles of Chaos explores and breaks down elements that characterize heavy metal music and transforms these elements into methodologies that can be applied to graphic design. Music is composed of different layers of sound created using various instruments; graphic design follows a similar approach, which is why there’s so much intersection between music and design. If heavy metal’s musical language was broken down into principles that can be applied to design, what would design look like? How would these musical elements push a visual composition? And how can they transform the way we see and interpret design?

I grew up listening to heavy metal, which has influenced many aspects of my life, including how I look at and think about design. I am no musician—I’m a graphic designer, so I translate the components contained in music into visuals, borrowing many of the elements that make heavy metal sound like heavy metal. My thesis transforms auditory features of heavy metal through research that interprets those features as graphic design methodologies. My quest to research those sound components perhaps introduces existent fundamentals of design, but it offers new ways to look at those fundamentals in a series of prompts that alter the melodies of heavy metal and bend them to become principles that propel design.

1. Mood focuses on communicating emotions through a wide array of musical moods evolution. This is often achieved by setting up a particular mood, driven by the emotions contained in lyrics.

2. Texture is heavy and distorted and is mainly what characterizes heavy metal. As a genre, heavy metal is largely based on textures created through the repeated riffs of the rhythm guitar.

3. Rhythm; metal is a highly rhythmic style of music, created through a combination of both drums and guitars. The guitars will often repeat only one or two chords, emphasizing the strumming rhythm.

4. Harmony in metal is achieved through power chords, which usually focus on the use of one main interval, generally the perfect fifth. This adds weight and creates the effect of an overwhelming power.

5. Dynamic in heavy metal  refer to the stylistic aspect, which is often different even between sub-genres of metal. For the most part, the genre uses terraced dynamics— similar to that of Baroque art music.

The pentagram of the theoretical traits of heavy metal, Riffing on design. The graphic featutres font Swords— a font i designed inspired by black metal. 

Why a pentagram?
  • The Pentagram as a symbol, has been in use for at least 5,000 years.
  • In ancient Greece, the pentagram was considered as a symbol of perfection because it is composed of five geometrically perfect A’s.
  • Each of the five points of the star indicate one of the five elements of Spirit, Air, Water, Fire and Earth.
  • Pentagrams are used heavily by many heavy metal bands, so that’s another reason why I wanted to use it a symbol for my methodology.