Surrealism and ’70s sci-fi nostalgia: how graphic designer Hello Rabbit made it in the music business

Northern native Hello Rabbit – aka Helen Rabbitte – tells us how she went from working at a posh popcorn brand to getting in with the top dogs in the music industry.

Designer and art director Helen Rabbitte’s work is a kaleidoscope of contrasts. Nostalgic and contemporary, north and south, surreal and calming.

Under the name Hello Rabbit, she has worked on everything from album covers and merchandise to brand identities and stage visuals for music industry giants such as Universal Music, Warner Music Group and Columbia Records, and artists like Peggy Gou and Nadia Rose.

Her style is evocative of ’70s sci-fi psychedelia, with abstract imagery that makes people look twice and warm, inviting hues and gradients that draw in the viewer, who will eventually become the listener. Contemporary cues feature in the form of quirky typefaces, sometimes direct from foundries and sometimes modified or hand-drawn from scratch.

Alaina Castillo Artwork

Regard Troye Tate

Rabbitte was born and raised in Liverpool, and although the influences of northern culture still feature prominently in her work – like streetwear styles and northern slang – she always saw herself in a big city and has made a home and a career in Hackney, London.

“In London, you’re exposed to a lot more culture and diversity”, says Rabbitte, which she feels brings something new and fresh to her creativity. She moved to the capital after completing her illustration degree at John Moore’s University in Liverpool to continue her design education and hone her skills at Shillington College. It was here that Rabbitte learned to work with Photoshop and InDesign, as she had previously favoured analogue drawing methods.

Rabbitte began her career at the snack brand Proper Corn, where she worked for three years. “At the time, there were about 20 of us all in our early 20s – it was a good laugh,” she remembers.
Despite this, she realised that her career would not be in brand design, as she found the brand guidelines that she had to stick to somewhat restrictive.

Her dream was to work in the music industry, where her name and distinctive style are now known and sought after. However, it was not an easy industry for a designer to break into with no connections in that realm and no music-related projects in her portfolio.

Soulection project

Soulection project

“They’re everything I loved about art, culture and music.”

Working as a permalancer for a couple of agencies after Proper Corn gave Rabbitte time to work on self-initiated projects like recreating album covers that she thought could be more creative. The work started to get quite a bit of traction on Instagram, and finally, Rabbitte was approached for a paid project.

British rapper Nadia Rose’s manager was one of the first to contact her in 2019, a connection which led to several other projects later on. “In the beginning, I put loads of effort into projects, even if they weren’t that well paid and quite small, but it paid off in the end”, she says.

After listening to artist collective Soulection for around ten years, Rabbitte landed a project with them, which she took as a sign that she was on the right track. “They’re everything I loved about art, culture and music, so for them to reach out to me as a client was a big accomplishment for me.”

Peggy Gou Pleasure Gardens was another of her favourite projects. She describes it as “collaborative” because she was free to inject her own ideas and style with guidance from the client team. She adds that multidimensional projects like this allowed her to “create a universe around each show”.

Self-initiated project

Self-initiated project

Self-initiated project

“Something that can live outside of the music.”

Rabbitte’s creative process often starts with listening to a track and then communicating how it made her feel to the artist. While music is always at the centre of her thinking, her view is that “something that can live outside of the music yet evoke emotion in the same way” is what makes a great album cover.

While Rabbitte aims to work across a variety of genres where possible and choose clients whose vision aligns with her own, she particularly enjoys working with artists in the dance music genre, as this allows her the most creative freedom.

“The bigger the popstar, the more people and rules are involved”, says Rabbitte. Because of this, she thrives when working with smaller artists and independent labels.

Most of Rabbitte’s projects involve clients in the music sector, but she still takes on projects outside of that industry to “stretch her creativity” and stop her getting “stuck in her ways”. She recently finished up a branding and packaging project for a UK-based wine brand, Other World Wine.
“What nice is that I’m in a position to say no to projects that I feel would be distractions,” says Rabbitte.

Peggy Gou The Pleasure Gardens

Peggy Gou The Pleasure Gardens

“Surreal, quite humorous and just a bit mental.”

Rabbitte has a long list of clients she’d love to work with in the future, including NTS, Nike, and Tyler the Creator. “I think Tyler the Creator is so creative himself and aligns with a lot of what I do in terms of being surreal, quite humorous and just a bit mental”, she says.

“I’m starting to prefer creative direction to doing the actual designing, so I’d love to be the creative director of a studio – maybe even my own studio – in the future”.

For now, Rabbitte is acting as a freelance design director at Funfair Records – a label recently founded by one of her contacts, who previously worked at Sony – working on around five releases every month in the realm of dance music.

Her work with Other World Wine is also ongoing as the brand prepares to launch a new product soon.

Peggy Gou The Pleasure Gardens

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