A Light in the Woods: a fairytale experience from musician Radical Face

Is it an album? A website? A video? Rogue Studio founder Britton Stipetic discusses their unique collaboration with musician Radical Face.

If you listen to a few of our Creative Boom podcast episodes, you’ll discover that many designers and illustrators are keen music fans. In fact, it’s often the way they first got into the industry. So crafting an album cover, filming a video or designing tour show visuals for a favourite musician is a dream job for many.

In all these cases, though, the relationship can sometimes be a little distant, especially if the star involved is globally renowned and permanently busy. At other times, though, you’ll get to work a little more closely and collaboratively, maybe even in a way that you’re more of a co-creator than just a service provider. And here’s a recent example of what that looks like in practice.

Ben Cooper is an American singer, songwriter and producer who produces music under the name Radical Face. He’s best known for his 2007 track Welcome Home, and his music has been featured in several global films, television shows and commercials.

Recently, he got together with Rogue Studio, a branding and digital design studio based in Brooklyn, New York, to create A Light in the Woods.

Studio founder Britton Stipetic describes it thus: “A Light in the Woods is not just an album, a story, or a website; it is a work of digital storytelling translating audio and visual mediums to create a modern take on a fairytale.”

Concept, not website

The project started with a simple notion, he tells us. “Radical Face wanted to create a project about the woods and use his three favourite mediums: music, writing, and visual art. Through collaboration and experimentation, we created a concept for a digital world, not just a website for our client.”

The idea was to translate the essence of the story Radical Face had created into a digital experience that showcased the lore and legend of the Hidden Hollow. “As you travel through this landscape, you can uncover lore, music, and characters while learning about our hero, Vagus, and his story,” says Britton. “The project quickly became more than just a website but an archive of story details, Easter eggs, and a hangout place for fans.”

The experience is designed for two different modes of discovery. The Explore feature is a homage to old point-and-click games where you can uncover details, learn, and solve problems; it also has a video format to watch the book come to life. Designed in six parts or ‘books’, each unveils more of the world, unlocks new Easter eggs, and tells more of the story.

The website tracks your progress, storing the locations you have been and the characters you have discovered in the bestiary. “We took inspiration from old D&D monster manuals featuring characters’ stats and abilities,” says Britton. “We applied the idea to this project, featuring character details and lore, allowing the audience to discover more about characters not in the main storyline, and giving extra insights to the dedicated adventurers and fans.”

The design was led by Mike Worthington, development was by Nathan Taylor, motion and UI were by Cierra Larkin, and creative direction was by Britton Stipetic. The typefaces are Guyot Headline, Arpona and Anonymous Pro.

Creative possibilities

It all reminds me of a time 10-15 years ago when the internet was still young, and artists and designers were thrilled by its possibilities. Back then, magazines like Computer Arts were filled with fresh, exciting and experimental digital projects at a time when there were no rules about what a website could or should be.

Fast-forward to the 2020s, and nowadays, websites are generally cookie-cutter experiences, mainly just desktop versions of mobile apps: functional, minimal and all looking much the same. When it comes to renting a car or booking a holiday, that’s of course what people want. But there’s potential for so much more when it comes to something like music. We applaud Radical Face and Rogue Studio for reminding us there are still creative boundaries to be pushed online – if only we make the effort.

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