Callum Abbott on designing for Pitchfork and doing justice to the vast diversity of music

Callum tells us that Pitchfork’s designers tend to keep a fairly open methodology, breaking projects down into two possible broad approaches. The first, perhaps more simple one, is using objects and iconography associated with the act of listening to music, like microphones, CDs, DJ decks and headphones. The second, more complex way is trying to “visually convey” the feeling that music evokes within people. For this approach, Callum cites Pitchfork’s ambient end-of-year essay as a good example, in which repetitive motion design was used to “convey the feeling of music washing over you”.
As so much new content is posted daily on the Pitchfork site, it’s also Callum’s job to keep it looking as varied as possible, and he’s always trying new styles – “sometimes hyper-digital and sometimes it’s really crafty and DIY”. This DIY aesthetic emerged in Pitchfork’s End of Year 2021 campaign, the brief being a “hyper-nostalgic scrapbook”. Using the organisation’s collection of hundreds of photographs, Callum found himself printing and scanning pictures of Tyler, the Creator and Megan Thee Stallion whilst ripping and hand-cutting letters for each design. “It was like being back in school, which was really fun,” he says.
But because music has such close links to society and politics, Callum also sometimes has to lend his designs a more serious tone, with current affairs at the forefront of his mind. When the war in Ukraine broke out, for instance, Philip Sherborne wrote an article championing Ukrainian electronic artists. For the design, “we wanted to find a visual balance between seriousness and also impact”, Callum explains. Using a synthesiser circuit whose buttons slowly change from multicoloured to the colours of the Ukrainian flag, the animation is simple, effective and impactful. While proving the time and keen effort that goes into creating the visuals for a large publication, Callum’s past year is also a lesson in following your convictions and taking the plunge.

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