Using Music to Inspire Your Web Designs

As an avid musician and composer, I find that music, like writing, permeates the other areas of my life, and that definitely includes web designing. I often use music as a background when I am in full “Photoshop mode,” sometimes assembling a full playlist of particular moods and flavors of songs, and sometimes just letting iTunes Shuffle dictate what mood I’ll hear next.

Some of the more memorable designs I’ve churned out over the years have begun with music. For example:

The clock-like notes and soaring guitars of “Alone” by Heart inspired this deep, space-like violet image, studded with faint stars. This became the background for one of my early personal sites’ splash pages.

Wispy vocals and an ethereal music box sound in Britney Spears’ song “Everytime” helped me create this handmade gradient of soft blues and sunny white. I eventually used the image as the fixed background for a contact page.

“Saltwater” by Chicane had such fathomless depth and rain-like rhythms that I was inspired to create this energetic swirl of blue-green and black. Later, this became part of a header image for an early fansite.

Where These Images/Color Selections Come From

Since I listen to the songs while I’m creating the images, I believe a lot of it has to do with my sound-color synesthesia, which I’ve referenced in other blog posts. The choices of colors and shapes often have absolutely nothing to do with the music videos, album artworks, or the artists themselves–it seems instinctual for me.

From doing this process over a number of years, I’ve discovered that hard rock, metal, or generally angry songs usually lead to harder lines, violent streaks of bright or vivid color, and harsh delineations of visual space in the resulting layout. By contrast, Celtic, New Age, or generally peaceful songs leads to soft gradients, less delineation of space on the layout, and more pastel/muted colors. Love songs of any type have almost invariably led to monochromatic designs with soft lines and yet defined content/sidebar/menu spaces on the layouts.

This is likely a result of the emotional content of each song as I experience it. But what about your own experience?

Try It For Yourself!

  1. Pick a song, any song, from your music library, and start playing it. You’ll likely want to set it on repeat for this exercise.
  2. Open your favorite graphics creation program (mine is Photoshop).
  3. Immerse yourself in the music. What colors and shapes would you associate with what you’re hearing? Does that funky guitar riff sound like a series of stretched-out triangles looks? What about that lovely glissando on the harp? Does it remind you of ripples in a pond? Let your imagination stretch out on this, and go with whatever comes to mind–don’t try to control the result too much at this stage.
  4. Whenever you’re ready, choose some colors and start creating. Anything goes at this point–remember, if you don’t like it or it doesn’t fit your vision, there’s always an Undo button!
  5. Once you’re satisfied with it or finished with it, whichever comes first, save your work.

Can’t Use It Yet? Don’t Worry!

You may never use this created image for anything–but on the other hand, it might become the basis for your next web design, or it might inspire you to create a totally new image a few months from now. If you can’t use your created image for your current project, save it for inspiration later!

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