Dopamine is easily one of the best releases of the year. With its nostalgic meets modern vibes, BØRNS has built himself a strong identity that takes the complexity of his music and packages it in a minimalist and stylish manner. When he revealed the cover of Dopamine, it was a stark contrast to his vibrant and colorful Candy EP. It was richer with more muted tones in the photo. It was sexualized sophistication that reflected his shimmery 70s sound. Though there’s an assumed naked woman on the front with an equally striking image of BØRNS peering at her, the thing that people have taken away from Dopamine‘s visual element is the simple and elegant calligraphy that balances out the album art.
I was fortunate enough to attend Dopamine‘s album release party earlier this month and there I met the woman behind the art. Gwendolyn Schwartzkopf is a young and promising graphic designer who met BØRNS when they were both teenagers. As she told me the story of how they met and eventually collaborated, it was too perfectly adorable and inspiring to not publish.
“I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. When I was 16 my parents took a few friends and I to Grand Haven, Michigan where we used to camp on the beach during the summertime. I was walking the boardwalk one afternoon and heard someone singing. Naturally, my friends and I were drawn to the angelic sound and we came to find 18-year-old Garrett playing the ukulele and singing on a little sailboat. We all began talking and have just stayed in touch over the years.”
When Gwendolyn moved to California, the old friends reconnected on his tour with Charli XCX and Bleachers, which started in San Diego. At the show, they caught up and reminisced and not long after, BØRNS reached out about Dopamine.
“The initial request was for the calligraphy for ‘dopamine’. He sent me some pictures he had drawn inspiration from. Most of the images had very organic typography styles. He liked the human error that comes with brush lettering. I had a new sketchbook and I swear by the time I was finished with this project I had used every single page. My bedroom floor became a sea of crumpled pages and different variations of ‘dopamine’. I would send him quick iPhone pictures and he’d either call or text me back with his feedback. I started out making each one different to get an idea of what he likes and what he doesn’t. He favored the ones that looked like I didn’t even try. He wanted everything very loose and fluid. He said, ‘Can you make it look like a handwritten letter to a lover?'”
“Finalizing the Dopamine logo got the ball rolling for a lot of other creative opportunities tied to the release of the album. I developed the calligraphy style for the album title. So, from that point forward I was able to do all of the track titles without as much of the back and forth. The color palette and photography was actually inspired by vintage playboy ads! You’ll be able to get a better taste of this concept when you see the album booklet especially.”
At the release party, it was really special walking through the venue with Gwendolyn and watch her see her artwork everywhere. The image of Garrett looking at the woman is guaranteed to be plastered all over but it’s the calligraphy that has become the most versatile. Gwendolyn mentioned how it’ll be the backdrop when he goes on tour, on t-shirts and posters. “His fans will be wearing my art on a shirt!” she exclaimed to me. “I can point at it and say, ‘Hey, I did that.'” It was something else talking to Garrett and Gwendolyn together at the party. Hearing Dopamine play in the background of our conversations with Gwendolyn’s art in every corner of the space was too unreal to comprehend. It’s great to see good people’s work out there for the world to enjoy. What’s even crazier is to know that the girl who stumbled upon BØRNS in that sailboat years ago has a big part in visually creating his identity as an artist.
“It’s a bit surreal. For example, I was on Spotify listening to a predicted up and coming artists playlist for 2015 or something and next thing you know BØRNS was playing. Anyone who clicks on BØRNS will see my artwork for all of the singles released. It’s amazing! Each time I check my Instagram and they’ve posted social content I created, my heart sings. Seeing my own artwork being shared and appreciated by his fans is the best feeling! Garrett also rocks as a client. He has a very specific vision and is extremely particular about his creative identity. It’s refreshing to work with someone who really cares and wants their album artwork to be legitimate artwork! Dopamine is his baby.”
Images Courtesy of Gwendolyn Schwartzkopf