Sound studio

Communicate a musician’s sound – visually

Photos courtesy of Maura Kelly and Moira Gervay | Artwork by Jeffrey C. Chase

UD undergrad uses graphic art and design to bring music to life

Editor’s note: This Q&A is part of a series of articles exploring research conducted by students at the University of Delaware. Follow our “Frontiers of Discovery” series as UDaily shines a light on some of these researchers.

Moira Gervay is a visual communication student at the University of Delaware. Originally from Wilmington, Delaware, Gervay explores ways to communicate music through art, including visuals such as posters and album covers.

Q: What attracts you to research? Have you done this before?

Gervay: I have always loved learning and I am curious about the world around me. I have done personal research on various topics in my spare time, but this is my first official research project.

Q: What were you studying during the summer of 2022, where were you studying it and who is your supervising professor on this work?

Gervay: I study the relationship between music and art, particularly how music influences art and the visuals associated with it, such as posters, merchandise, and album covers. Under the direction of Aaron Terry, Assistant Professor of Art and Design, I worked in the Studio Arts Building’s print studio to produce artwork that coincided with the music of Grant Claytor, an alumnus of the ‘UD. All of my work is initially done using Adobe Creative Suite, then either digitally made up or screen printed in the studio. For this research, I collaborated with Grant to design concert posters, merchandise, single cover and CD booklet for his album, CAPRICE (2020).

Q: What motivated you to study this subject?

Gervay: My two biggest passions are art and music. I grew up surrounded by all musical genres: pop, classic rock, gospel, country, blues, alternative, show tunes and more. I often find myself inspired by my favorite musicians when creating my works. As a graphic designer, I draw inspiration from legendary designers, like Paula Scher, and up-and-coming designers, like Kel Lauren. Scher and Lauren both work in the music industry using old and new design techniques to visually communicate an artist’s sound. Visuals play a crucial role in live music and an artist’s brand, but they also make an artist’s sound and message tangible. Instead of just hearing the sound and the lyrics, you have the ability to visualize them or even wear them to express yourself. Music translates the emotions deep within us. Without the visuals accompanying the music, how would we be able to directly show the world how we feel?

Q: What has surprised you the most about this work so far?

Gervay: Each person has their own way of visualizing music. I found it fascinating to work with Grant and hear how he thinks his music translates to various color palettes, typography, and imagery, and then compare that to my ideas. For example, if I thought a song’s cover could have different shades of blue, he might think neutrals would work best. As an artist working with clients, it’s a fun challenge to incorporate their ideas into my style. Talking with Grant about his music, his perspective as a creator, and his writing process opened up a new vein of inspiration that I otherwise wouldn’t have seen unless I had taken on this project and completely immersed in this work.

Q: What are the possible real world applications for your study?

Gervay: While musicians provide the soundtrack to their story, artists and designers help bring it to life by visually depicting the message or feeling a musician is trying to convey through their songs. A musician’s branding and the visuals associated with their music attract listeners. Billboards, promotional posters, covers, social media posts, merchandise, etc. should be consistent and recognizable. My study aims to give a clear example of this relationship and how both parties rely on each other to produce something beautiful.

Q: How would you explain your work to a non-scientist or even a CM2 student?

Gervay: I want to translate music into something that is pleasing to watch. My research aims to show the correlation between art and music and how a musician’s lyrics and melodies can be transformed into works of art that visualize the message the lyrics or melodies are trying to convey. Working directly with a musician like Grant Claytor allows me to understand his ideas about anything related to his music and to use my design knowledge to create something magical.

Q: How does this experience align with your professional goals?

Gervay: Music and art are timeless mediums, and there’s a lot to explore when it comes to different genres and artists. Two musicians won’t have the same visual branding, and I find that incredible. My dream is to design for the music industry while helping artists with their branding and merchandise. I don’t think I’ll ever stop creating and exploring how lyrics and tone translate into visuals.

Q: What do you like when you’re not doing research?

Gervay: Even when I’m not doing research or working on assignments for my design classes, I love creating illustrations in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. I also like traveling, concerts and going out with my friends.

Q: What advice would you give to your classmates who are considering or planning to pursue undergraduate research?

Gervay: Undergraduate research is the perfect opportunity for you to explore your passions and future career. I wanted my research to be structured like the work I would do as a music industry designer, which would give me an edge after I graduated from the University of Delaware. Tailor your research to reflect your future plans and use it as a learning experience.