Behind the merch with Emily Westcar
Emily Westcar – a 24 year old London-based Graphic Designer – has always been heavily into music (everything from a rock gig to an electronic night at Printworks) and dreamt of combining music and design in her working life. Fast forward several years and she’s now working at Warner Music Group as a Merchandise Designer for WEA (Warner Elektra, Atlantic) and has designed merch for Ashnikko, Atlantic, Bears Den, Fat White Family, Rage Against The Machine and have assisted Rhi (Creative Director) with Biffy Clyro. They also work on New Order, Joy Division, Creeper, Gorillaz, Stormzy, Liam Gallagher, A-ha and various other artists.
Tell us about your gear.
We mainly use the Adobe Suite, Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator. I also use a graphic tablet when drawing up designs.
How did you get into this role?
After working in corporate advertising in my first year out of university, I took to screen printing again when I joined 3rd Rail, an open-access studio, where I was a technician and tutor. This studio taught me how to print on t-shirts and other fabrics. Soon after, I started printing for my own clients and using my own designs. This is when my now manager and colleague, Rhi, came in to discuss printing hand-illustrated Biffy Clyro posters. We managed to exchange Instagram accounts and I asked if she needed an Intern. This has now developed into a full-time role.
“I found freelancing at different companies really helped me figure out where I fitted into the industry.”
Walk us through the process of designing merchandise?
We have amazing in-house product managers who liaise with the artists and their management before passing the design team a structured brief who will then implement the concepts. Sometimes that’ll include assets from an album cover or the band would’ve already decided on an aesthetic and other times we have full creative freedom to come up with ideas and new visuals. Full creative freedom means research is needed, which includes collecting images and putting mood boards together. Sketching can be used to get ideas down on paper, but I really enjoy trying many different variations on mocked up garments on Photoshop.
Can you share your favourite piece with us? Why do you love it so much?
Ashnikko pushed my design skills when she asked for the illustration to feel like it was written in blood. It originates from one of her songs, ‘Halloweenie’ – she is not afraid to shock her audience! My design was printed on a long sleeve and used all over her social media to advertise for a Christmas exclusive pop up shop; a live gig in an East London pub. It was rewarding seeing my work worn by multiple fans at the event!
If you could have dinner with five people who’s either inspired you or who you’d like to design for, who would it be?
I would love to design for my favourite band growing up, Enter Shikari. Tom Misch, Bicep and Four Tet’s music really inspire me when I am designing, so I’d love to collaborate with them with moving image. I am inspired by Bryan Rivera (@100br) who designs incredible artwork and merch designs for some of the top artists, including Post Malone, Lady Gaga. Mike Lythgoe (@mike_lythgoe) has produced stunning artworks for Foals, Dua Lipa, The Snuts and more.
Any other tips?
Make work for fun and that you enjoy! If you’re at university, collaborate outside your course with fellow designers, artists, and makers. Network as much as possible; Instagram is a great tool. I found freelancing at different companies really helped me figure out where I fitted into the industry.
More examples of Emily’s merch artwork for Creeper, Counterfeit and Fat White Family.
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