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I Can Give You Grimsby [Interview]

It’s not often that we stray far from music on I Can Give You House. However, with EDM becoming such a strong fixture of our culture, we think it is important to illuminate some of the different facets of the industry behind the music. This past weekend we had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Ariel Lee a.k.a. Grimsby, a graphic designer and brand developer for electronic musicians.

Grimsby’s most notable commission to date was producing the logo for Alesso, which you’ve undoubtedly seen shining brightly through multi-story LED screens at any one of his enormous shows over the past two years. In our interview, Grimsby gave us the low-down on how she landed the Alesso project and went in depth on how vital brand development is for anyone trying to make a lasting impact on the music world:

ICanGiveYouHouse: Hey Ariel, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us. To start off, tell us a little bit about your background in graphic design.

Grimsby: Of course! I’ve been working in design under the name Grimsby for six years. I started off doing photography and film and then transitioned to branding. One of my first projects was handling the logo design and creative development for a restaurant called The Daily Dose. After that, I started to focus on branding work entirely.

ICGYH: And then all of the sudden you were making a logo for Alesso, haha?

Grimsby: Yea, the first EDM gig I had was Alesso. It was when he was still up-and-coming and I noticed that he didn’t have any kind of logo. So, I emailed his manager Stephan (@smarkovits) and I was like, “Hey, look. You guys need branding. You don’t have any yet. You should hire me.”

ICGYH: Haha, that’s amazing.

Grimsby: Yea, so I sent in my portfolio in a completely “cold-call” email. To my surprise and with a little bit of luck too (because they weren’t really organized on that end of things quite yet), they got back to me and said, “Yea let’s do it.” So I sent them a couple drafts and they ended up picking the first one I sent them and that’s now become his logo.

ICGYH: That’s wild. So when working with Alesso, or any of your EDM clients, what is the creative process like? How closely do you work with them? How much direct involvement do they have?

Grimsby: Most of the time artists don’t really know what they want. They’ll have a feeling of what they want to portray and it’s my job to take that general feeling or tone and translate that into something visual. So there’s a lot of room for creativity, which to some degree is much harder. It’d be a lot easier if artists actually knew what they wanted.

The feedback I get will be very vague, for example, “Simple, but cool.” So on my end, it’s really important to understand the artist, really listen to their music, talk to them to see who they are and what they want to become, and then funnel all of that into something that truly represents them.

ICGYH: Right, that sounds difficult. To backtrack a bit, you mentioned your transition from photography and film to brand design, but how did you choose to make electronic music your primary focus?

Grimsby: Well on the one hand, more and more music reps starting hitting me up once they found out I had worked on the Alesso project. For example at the Amsterdam Dance Event, we had been hanging out with Morten Breum’s manager and out of the blue he said, ‘Wait! You’re the logo girl? I’ve heard about you!” I just think that it’s a really small niche right now and there’s so many new EDM artists, so there’s a lot of opportunity.


ICGYH: For sure. You touched on something that I think is really important. There are thousands of electronic musicians now, but the ones that are breaking through the “bedroom producer” motif and actually succeeding have been branded from top to bottom. They have a palpable identity deconstructs their online anonymity.

Grimsby: Exactly and the branding goes beyond just a logo. It’s everything, from the tone of the posters, to the album artwork, to the show production, it all makes an impact. It’s hard to get all of these different pieces to work in unison, but when a DJ/producer can do that, it becomes very powerful.

People are just starting to learn the value of branding. Sometimes people are turned away by how much I charge, but the truth is branding is an investment. If you want to take yourself seriously as a DJ, artist, label, or anything, you need brand integrity in order to ensure the fluent communication of your identity and your overall success.

ICGYH: Can you give us some examples of electronic artists/labels superior branding?

Grimsby: The Armin van Buuren brand. It’s minimal, white, European, clean, accessible. Deadmau5 too. He’s created a character that is larger than life. Skrillex has good branding as well. His icon with the three scratches is clearly evocative of the dark energy in his music.

As for labels, A-Trak and Fool’s Gold have been really successful putting out a message that they’re friendly and cool but also edgy. Ed Banger too. They have great branding and design and have stuck with the same style for years. They have this fun, French vibe that is the culmination of street art, cartoons, and disco. Their brand also translates into different mediums. I would wear an Ed Banger t-shirt because they have great artwork and represent something cool.

ICGYH: Definitely. It’s actually somewhat unfortunate because I find myself quick to dismiss music from artists that I don’t immediately connect with on some other intrinsic level. Without solid branding I feel that a lot of incredible artists can/will get easily overlooked for a long time.

Grimsby: I completely agree. Making music and starting to build up a fanbase is the first level, but the next level is becoming a brand that represents something significant that thousands or millions of people can relate to. It’s the pursuit of making something that will last and leave your mark.

All of the upcoming DJs and producers who are actually serious about their work need to know this. If they want to stand out, they need to invest in their brand to reveal what makes them unique and ultimately what do they want to become.

ICGYH: I agree 100%. Well, that’s all we’ve got for now. Thanks so much again for speaking with us. This has been some really good insight into another side of EDM.

Grimsby: Great thank you!

To see Grimsby’s full portfolio, visit her website HERE. For all bookings and inquires, you can contact her at: bookgrimsby@boomrat.com 

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