Building a country artist's chart-worthy brand
Willie Lock is a rising country star from NYC who believes in classic hard work and determination with a modern twang. Inspired by the likes of Morgan Wallen and Thomas Rhett, his music is a reflection of his own journey - when he needed his grassroots persona to shine through in his visual identity, he approached me to help communicate it. I helped him build a visual brand from the ground up and applied it to all aspects of his presence.
Identity Research • Visual brand development • Key imagery
Promotion Digital marketing collateral
Experience Cover art
The Mission Willie needed a relatable, yet stylish brand that would help bridge the gap between him and his audience. It needed to be professional enough to sit with the big names, yet down to earth enough to resonate with the everyman.
The Solution To help a rising star grow, I had to survey the current ones. I worked with Will to research the brands of artists that inspire him, from the past and present, to understand his values, differentiator, and audience.
The Result A fresh, bright, and bold brand image that straddled the intersection of urban life and classic country living helped him reach fans in a more meaningful way. His latest single “When We Were 17” debuted in the top 50 on the iTunes Country Music charts, while his Spotify saw over a 900% increase in streams and listeners. Two of his latest singles are available to preview below.
Research & Ideation
I needed to start by getting a better understanding of the Country music landscape.
I started by researching modern artists like Morgan Wallen, Thomas Rhett and Chris Stapleton. I noticed that many had adopted a modern and sophisticated look with muted color palettes, luxury fonts, and minimalistic design. They also blended in more traditional elements - like geometric shapes and texture - to ground the work.
I also looked back at artists from the 70's like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Marty Robbins. They tended to have a more rustic, yet still commercial, look with bright colors, bold typography, and playful illustrations.
As I studied, I realized that Willie's biggest differentiator was his urban lifestyle, which provided the perfect foundation to build on while pushing some of Country Music's modern trends even further.
Typography is always a pivotable element in my process and helps me nail down the tone of the project. We settled on Trade Gothic Next for its keen design and utilitarian feel - Heavy Condensed for titles and headlines, and Regular for details and copy.
Committing to a workhorse font allowed Willie to better express his distinct urban style through photography, which would become the cornerstone of his brand. We chose to focus on a particular photographic style that incorporated muted colors, like other modern country artists, but also added occasional pops of saturated color and urban settings.
Wordmark & Emblem
Willie's logo system uses simple geometric shapes for a utilitarian feel, and stars to add a streamlined, rustic touch that evokes vintage country brands. A light touch was key here - we wanted to make Willie's urban persona accessible to the general country audience, while still highlighting what makes him unique.
Cover Art Designs
The cover art was to keep with the same themes as before - mixing modern and vintage country trends with Willie’s distinctive urban style. Bold typography leads the cover designs in a format that mimics the wordmark. The type coordinates with a chosen photo for a modern feel that highlights Willie, and the contemporary feel is pushed even further with maximalist icons below the main type. Traditional elements, such as the stereo graphic and strong texture, balance out the design and bring back the country feel. Color is used strategically to highlight Willie in an otherwise muted scene.
Marketing Assets
Marketing assets were designed based on the cover art, which use similar photography and type. For each release, square images for standard feed posts, tall graphics for story posts, and banner assets were created.
2022 Statistics
Following the branding development and accompanying regular music releases, Willie Lock had his best year yet in 2022. His Spotify statistics showed huge increases in the size of his fanbase and their interactions with his music.
Over 900% growth
100K Listeners
Over 900% growth
200K Streams
Saves increased by
Playlist adds increased by

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