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For some musicians and bands, image and identity are almost as important as music and performing. They often go hand in hand. We can group certain types of musicians together not only by their music but also how they appear to their audience.

Musicians craft a certain style for themselves not only because they “belong” to particular genres (like Rock, Pop, Country, etc.), but also as a way of expressing their own personality. This develops a strong identity for the musician and ensures the whole package – the music and the look – people will remember them and eventually become fans.

There are several elements that make up the overall style of a band or artist; the way they look, their products and the style or look of their advertising.


  • As a class, brainstorm reasons why musicians might want to look a certain way.
  • Make a list of the things that need to be “designed” for a band.
  • Think about your school uniform (if you have one). If we think of the way a band dresses as a uniform, then we can think about what that uniform is designed to represent. Consider why you wear a school uniform? What information are you sharing with the world by wearing that particular uniform?
  • Look at these rock photographs from Zo Damage’s 365 Days project – what does the photographer capture about the performances, the musicians and the audiences?
  • Look at the poster designs below. Write a list of words to describe the band being advertised. What information is contained on each poster? What do you think is the purpose of each poster?



The design of a band’s costumes, sets, posters, badges, hairstyles etc. depend on many factors. One is obviously the time the artist lived in and the trends and fashion of that time. The artist may have wanted to fit in with those trends or totally move away from them and start something different. Some artists have a very strong design aesthetic and know how they would like to look and be perceived. Sometimes their looks change dramatically over the years. Kylie Minogue is a great example of this. As her music and fans and audiences changed, so did her looks. She worked with iconic costume, set and tour designers to create the unique, iconic and independent look she is now known for.

Here is more information on the language often used when talking about design elements and design principles.



Can be used to form the seams, stitching, and/or folding of fabric and aspects of theconstruction of clothing. Lines in clothing can also often define the shapes within the garment. The lines of direction and strength of the lines determines the way the onlookerviews the clothing. Vertical lines extend the proportion of the body to seem taller and slimmer. Horizontal lines do the opposite, making the body seem wider. Lines have to floweasily without any interruptions to draw our attention in the direction of the line. If the line isinterrupted our eyes stop and focus where the interruption occurs. Lines can give characterto the garment. Straight lines give a sense of structure and order. Curved lines are connectedwith refinement and sensuality. If there is too much detail of assembled lines they createclutter and distract the eye.


Is a design element that draws your attention when you first look at a garment. Designers canbase their designs on geometric shapes such as; circles, rectangles, triangles and squares.Designers can also use organic shapes, these shapes are usually irregular and are often basedon curves. When discussing fashion and clothing shape can refer to the overall shape of thegarment, for example the outfit’s silhouette.


Is a key design element, it can convey many different things in different materials. Whenusing fabric the choice of colour is open-ended. All colours are possible and can be used in anendless variety of combinations. Colour can be used subtly, in creating light washed,harmonising and blending shades. Colour can also be used to create a dramatic effect, bycombining strong and contrasting colours, therefore creating visual tension. Colours include:Primary colours (red, yellow, blue) Secondary colours (orange, green, purple) etc.


Is the surface quality, a general characteristic for a substance or a material. Texture exists allaround us. It can be natural, invented or manufactured. It can also be simulated or made tolook and/or feel rough, smooth, hard, soft, natural or artificial. Simulated textures such as arough stone wall or a fluffy cloud are made to look and feel like real textures.


Is the three dimensional feel and look of an object. It is different to shape as a shape looksflat and two dimensional. All objects have shape or form. Shapes such as triangles, squaresand circles have no volume and are two dimensional. However, rectangular and triangularprisms have form as they are three dimensional.


Are most often small and round, hence the word point. However, they may come in variousshapes such as square, diamond etc. They may contrast weakly or strongly against a materialor they may stand alone or be in multiples creating pattern and texture.


Opaque material doesn't let any light transmit through so you can't see through the surface.


A transparent material allows you to clearly see the objects on the other side. Transparencyrefers to the ability of a substance to transmit light easily.


A translucent material lets light pass through, but objects on the other side can't be seenclearly.




Is the control of the elements in attracting attention. This attention must be evenly orunevenly spread over the garment to make sure interest is maintained, without being motionless and chaotic. Balance can create movement, tension or calmness. Balance can be symmetrical or asymmetrical:
Symmetrical balanceis a mirror image balance. If you were to draw a line down themiddle of a garment, it’s a mirrored image.
Asymmetrical balanceis when components of a design are balanced but are notmirrored. Colours can also be asymmetrical, for example having one darker colour andbalancing it by several lighter colours.


Is used to create dominance or focus in a garment. This may be through the selectionand use of colour, shape or other elements. Various kinds of contrast can also be used toemphasise a centre of interest.


Is an important element in clothing or fabric product design. Patterns use the elementsof line, shape and colours. It can also refer to a repeated feature that creates a visual pattern used to create dramatic effect and interest. Pattern in fabric can be constructedof threads as they are either woven or knitted. They can also be printed or embroideredonto the surface. Pattern is produced in various colours, shades or textures.


Is the term that means different things in different materials. The clothing term ofmovement usually refers to how the fabric flows and drapes. The clothing term formovement is how you as a designer move the viewer’s eye through a space with the line,contrast, volume and placement of objects within a design.


Is the design element that stands out because they are not alike, for example; circles andtriangles. Red and blue colours also create contrast, therefore they are completelydifferent. Putting objects or different fabric textures together can create contrast andtherefore make each other stand out more than they would separately. Contrast makesthe elements seem more dramatic and lively.


Refers to one object or shape repeated, creating emphasis on a certain aspect of design.


Is the void between solid objects and shapes. It is everywhere and all around us.Everything takes up space in one form or another whether it’s two dimensional likedrawing and painting, or three dimensional like sculpture and architecture.


Is a term that can refer to two related aspects of a design. It is the relationship betweenthe overall dimensions of an object, the length, compared to the thickness of the form. On the other hand it can also refer to the relationship between the size and space between the various patterns of a design.

Task 1 - Experimenting with texture and pattern
The world around us can be a wonderful resource for design. If you look around you, you will see a wide variety of colours, textures and patterns all thrown together to create the environment you are in. If you are in a rural area, you might see greens and browns and more natural textures like bark and mud. If you’re in a city, you might see greys and blacks, glass and concrete. 

In this exercise, you can use the environment around you to inspire some costumes designs. 

Step 1. Draw

Draw the outline of a person wearing an item of clothing. It can be any clothing you like – shirt and pants, dress, jumpsuit – whatever you like. Make sure you only draw the outline though!

Costume cutout - example

Step 2. Cut

Now cut out the clothing ONLY. You will be left with the face, arms and legs of your model. You have simply cut out the shape of clothing from the body of your model. You might need to sticky tape the point where you cut in from the edge of the paper (on the back) so it doesn’t flap around.

Costume cutout - example 2

Step 3. Experiment

Now you can take your cut-out and hold it up to different backgrounds.

Close up:

 Costume cutout - example 3

Try out some different textures and backgrounds for your cut-out. Make notes on what you think would work for a costume for a musician or recording artist. Give some reasons why you have chosen the design you have.

Costume cutout - example 4

Costume cutout - example 5

Costume cutout - example 6

Costume cutout - example 7



Costume cutout - example 8

Task 2 - Experimenting with shape
Now that we’ve experimented with different colours and patterns to inspire our designs, let’s experiment with shape. The shape of a costume can turn a piece of cloth into something artistic and beautiful. Have a look Kylie Minogue’s dress, below: 

Kylie dress 1

If this was made of a material like your school shirt or dress, how do you think it would look? It wouldn’t be able to stick out and hold its shape like this one does, so it would just hang. It would be a totally different dress!

In this activity, we’re going to use different materials and look at how they behave differently. You will need:

  • A piece of photocopy paper
  • A piece of thicker paper or card
  • A piece of cellophane
  • A piece of foil

Try to make the following shapes with each material (the sticky tape is to join the material and hold it in place if you need to!):

  • Cone
  • Ball
  • A symmetrical shape
  • An asymmetrical shape

You can fold, scrunch, wrap, or change the material in any way you like to make the shape – experiment with it and see what happens!


Task 3 - Album Covers of the Year

Have a look through some of the 2017 ARIA nominations for Best Album Cover, shown below. As a class discuss why you think these album covers were chosen. What are their similarities and differences? What do they tell us about the band and the music on the album?

Conduct a class vote – who do you think will win the award?

Gang of Youths - Go Farther in Lightness album cover

Julia Jacklin - Don't Let the Kids Win album cover

Midnight Oil - Overflow Tank album cover

Paul Kelly - Life is fine album cover

IN DEPTH - Design Files: Ian McCausland

Ian McCausland is a graphic designer/illustrator from Melbourne who has created some of the most iconic band posters and album covers Australia has seen.

Starting out designing for local bands and gigs in the 1960s, Ian McCausland worked with countless artists who defined the rock music scene in Australia through the 1960s and 70s, including the Rolling Stones, Daddy Cool, Skyhooks, and AC/DC. He also designed the poster for the Sunbury Music Festival which is featured in the Australian Music Vault.

Rather than relying on a lot of text, posters and album covers often use symbolism and suggestive images to provide information to an audience. People looking at posters might only glance at them very quickly, so the designer wants them to take in as much information as they can in a very small amount of time. Using images rather than words can be very effective at achieving that goal. 

Have a look through some examples of poster and album cover designs by Ian McCausland and answer the image analysis questions below.

The Rolling Stones - Ian McCausland

Rolling Stones Tour Poster, 1973. Design by Ian McCausland

  • The Mouth is the logo of the Rolling Stones. What does this logo tell us about the band?
  • Describe the ‘story’ being told by this poster?
  • Is this design very complex or quite simple? Why has the designer chosen to present the information in this way?

    Poster for Sunbury Festival, 1972. Graphic Artist - John Rezska. Courtesy of John Fowler

  • What does this poster tell us about what the festival might be like?
  • Why do you think the artist choose to colour the person in blue?
  • This poster doesn’t tell us anything about the bands playing at the festival – do you think that is a good thing or a bad thing? Why?
  • JoJo Zep and the Falcons - Ian McCausland

    1. How does the text create a sense of movement?
    2. What kind of music do you think this band plays?
    3. The background design tells us a bit about the location of the gig – they were playing at The Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda, where palm trees line the foreshore. Do you think this is a clever way to let the audience know where the show is on, or is it too confusing? How would you display this information if you were the designer?


    Victorian Curriculum links:

    Learning Areas Capabilities
    The Arts
    • Music
      • Respond and Interpret
    • Visual Arts
      • Explore and Express Ideas
      • Visual Arts Practices
      • Present and Perform
      • Respond and Interpret
    • Visual Communication Design
      • Explore and Represent Ideas
      • Present and Perform
      • Respond and Interpret
    • Critical and Creative Thinking
    • Personal and Social
    • Speaking and Listening


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