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How the type on Lorde's 'Solar Power' brings a human touch back to the web

Typography on Lorde's new album, Solar Power, by designer Gustavo Eandi.

Light gray handlettering on a black background that reads "Lorde", by designer Gustavo Eandi.

Images courtesy Gustavo Eandi.

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As the editor of Shaping Design, I spend a lot of time surfing the web in search of the most exciting, innovative, and envy-worthy design work around. So we’re starting a series that brings buzzy projects from across the industry straight to you. After all, you never know when (or from where) inspiration may strike. Consider this your regular design dispatch from the depths of design Twitter. I’m hyper online and sharing the spoils—so you don’t have to be.

This week I've bookmarked: Argentinian designer Gustavo Eandi’s lettering for Lorde’s new album, Solar Power, which went viral. Eandi created 10 wordmarks for the title tracks, and the 'Lorde' and 'Solar Power' logos, in the style of classic rock albums. They’re a great study in contrasts: perfectly imperfect, hand-drawn for an end use on screen, old and new. I spoke with Eandi about his inspirations, process, and the contrast of creating art by hand when it ultimately will be seen on screens.

An alternate, all-caps Solar Power logo by Gustavo Eandi.
Image courtesy Gustavo Eandi.

Tell me a bit about yourself and your design style.

I like so many different styles of graphic design, and art, and music. The first thing is that I like handmade stuff. I don’t use Wacom or an iPad. I draw on paper, then I scan it. When I see that feeling in the work of someone, it’s interesting in some way. I can identify with that kind of style, where there are some mistakes and things are not so perfect. The human touch.

Describe your process for your work on the Lorde album. What kind of direction did you get from Lorde’s team, and from 12:01 — Office of Hassan Rahim, the studio that designed her album?

The link between Lorde and me is Hassan and his team. I’ve been working with Hassan since 2019. He proposed this work to me early this year and told me he’d like to work in the seventies, sixties, psychedelic record cover [style]. I worked on a lot of ideas for the two logos—‘Lorde’ and ‘Solar Power.’ It took a week or maybe less, then I sent the scanned drawings on paper to Hassan. The feedback from Lorde, from Ella [Lorde's given name], was quite fast and super easy. She loved the few options I sent. Then we started to clean up some details, but she loved the one that’s on the cover. It’s very close to the original handmade drawing I did.

Then we started to work on some singles. I made the logos for all the songs in a day—with two options [for each song], it was a long list. Hassan is the boss, he knows how to move the pieces, so I sent him those sketches and another guy put the colors on them and digitized them.

Images courtesy Gustavo Eandi.

Why did you and the team decide to give each song a distinct style?

Hassan and Lorde felt that they had their own way of doing stuff, with more dedicated to each song. To develop each song idea, so each song was something special.

Natalie from Hassan's team sent me comments from Lorde. I had never listened to the songs before the record came out. ‘Big Star’ is about her dog. 'Dominoes’ is about those men who are supposed to be new age, spiritual guys but they’re two-faced. So there are some preachers in a circle. There was one line for each. And the names are very visual: ‘Big Star.’ ‘Secrets from a Girl Who’s Seen it All.’ She wanted to do something girly with a mystic touch–that’s why I did the Oros eye [on ‘Secrets from a Girl Who’s Seen it All’]. Everything was by phone and a bit of a rush but very easy to do.

These days, what’s important is not an album but a song. In the case of Lorde, there’s a huge fandom waiting for an album, so it’s a special case. I’m happy that people like the logo, too, because the photo [on the album cover] is iconic.

You mentioned late ‘60s and early ‘70s rock album art as the aesthetic inspiration for this album. Were there any other specific artists or album covers that you looked to for inspiration?

Hipgnosis, a really old graphic design studio that made records for Pink Floyd. A lot of those old people from the 60s and 70s: Robert Plant, the Police, Queen. Especially Pink Floyd. [That] mystical and trippy style. There’s a book called The Book of Record Jackets by Hipgnosis and Roger Dean. That was a huge source of inspiration. I also like album covers and bootlegs made by people with less skill and with some mistakes. The lines are clunky, there’s something wrong. There are a lot of Argentinian bootlegs and Argentinian graphic style in that way in the ‘70s that tried to imitate records from other bands. There are great album covers from Argentina from that era.

Illustrated 'Solar Power' logo by Gustavo Eandi.
Image courtesy Gustavo Eandi.

How did you develop each composition?

For ‘Lorde’ and ‘Solar Power,’ I started drawing the whole word with pencil, then I used a light box to make some adjustments. It’s a silly way to do this in 2021. It’s easier to scan it and finalize it on the computer. For the cover logo, I did maybe ten versions. Then I scanned it into Illustrator, vectorized the logo, and I finalized. It’s 50/50. 50% by hand with a pencil and the last 50% with Illustrator or Photoshop.

So often album art comes down to its smallest common denominator—a tiny square on a streaming platform like Spotify or Apple music. How did you balance the detail and depth of the typography with legibility and usability?

Illustrated "Lorde" logo by Gustavo Eandi.
Image courtesy Gustavo Eandi.

I didn’t think about it [for the album logo] because I knew that most people would see it on a super tiny square. Nobody can read the logo on the cover. In the case of the songs, I thought about more clear, straightforward ideas, lines, and strokes; more for legibility, because the song logos are for YouTube visualizers.

What are your suggestions for making super expressive, illustrative typefaces like the ones you designed work for web?

One thing I think about when I work with letters is to make them eternal. Work with handmade art, not only Helvetica or Bodoni. It’s not for the client, but for myself, to see something that will age in good shape.

My advice for young people would be to think about contrast. That’s definitely one thing I have incorporated from when I was young, drawing comic strips and working with black ink and white paper. It’s top of mind to keep it high contrast; keep it really readable. And to make them powerful. When I use typography, I forget about kerning. Each letter needs a different space; needs a different boldness and thickness. You have to read it well—or read it badly, if you want that. But trust in your eye.

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