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Last summer, British rapper Little Simz needed an animated lyric video for her track Rollin Stone, ahead of the release of her fourth album, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert. The hugely successful LP later went on to receive widespread acclaim from critics.

Simz won Best New Act at the 2022 BRIT Awards and is signed to Sony-owned AWAL. Creative Commission was quested to help hire a motion graphics artist who could deliver under pressure.

After all: it was Friday - and the video needed to be delivered by Monday.

With an incredibly tight turnaround required, Steve Hyland was initially contacted early in the morning on the Friday by Jeremy Ngatho Cole: an award-winning filmmaker and creative director, born in Kenya and raised in the UK, who has collaborated with Little Simz on numerous occasions.

"Jeremy had seen my folio on Creative Commission," explains Steve, "and was impressed with the range of styles and genres I could tackle creatively."

Hyland is no stranger to major label expectations: he began his music design career in the mid 90s, designing sleeves for EMI Records' sub-labels such as Capitol, Food, Parlophone, Echo and Zomba.

"I created campaigns and sleeve designs for artists such as Foo Fighters, Supergrass, Radiohead, Robbie Williams and Feeder," explains Steve. "In 2000 I moved to Sony Music and was responsible for artists across labels such as S2, Columbia, INCredible, Epic and Sony Jazz. I subsequently worked for a wide range of music labels, as well as spreading my wings into other sectors including galleries, museums and education."

The brief

The aesthetic of the Rollin Stone video needed to be cool, clean, colourful and with a hint of futurism. 

"The artist was keen to work with block colour, geometric shapes and expressive animated typography. The final video needed to air by the end of play on the Monday, so it only gave me three full days to work on it, including artist and label sign off, time to render the final version and for the label to upload to social outlets. It was tight!" 

Jeremy had pulled together a quick moodboard to outline the video's general colour tone and some font suggestions. The album campaign was already in full swing, so Steve wanted to reference that whilst creating something fresh that stood apart. 

"I split the video into two parts which suited the track and focussed on giving the lyrics plenty of movement whilst keeping it simple. I created an intro and sent it over late on Friday. Fortunately, the approach landed bang on brief, and I was given the approval to proceed full steam ahead."

The process

Jeremy fed some comments back in as Steve iterated on fonts and colours before dialling in some specific changes towards completion to lock down on phrasing and tighten transitions. 

"Working quickly back and forth with concise feedback enabled us to get to a finished stage late on Sunday; it was all very smooth yet fast-paced," says Steve. 

A pre-approval version of the video was sent to Simz and her manager Monday lunchtime. Then, early afternoon, Steve heard back...

Simz loved it and, subject to a couple of tweaks, the lyric video was approved for delivery.

"Helen Barrass and Ariel Cohen at AWAL were terrific in ensuring communication was clear, and once the big thumbs up came in, everything clicked into place regarding delivery."

"It was an immensely rewarding experience working with a team at the top of their game, pulling out all the stops to create a great video in such a short space of time."

Following the release of the Rollin Stone lyric video, the team commissioned Hyland again: this time for a remix of her vociferous track Venom. The original version was released as part of Drake’s soundtrack for the Netflix show Top Boy and Steve again expertly matched Cole and Simz's creative vision. Great work!

Steve Hyland

Hyland describes himself as an avid follower of music and design, having co-founded Ai Records and Future Massive record labels and he runs the design studio Geometric Love. He designs experimental type and illustrations as well as also creating motion graphics and videos for releases and branding.

Check out Steve Hyland's profile here