My First Project in Music

Goodbye AOL Instant Messenger

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This blog was originally published on my SVBTLE on May 20, 2012.

Eight years ago I completed my first project in the music business. It was fifty pixels square, under seven kilobytes, and made of pure GIF. I was designing around one of the most saught after properties of Internet marketing real estate: The AIM Buddy Icon.

In the spring of 2004, Sonic Youth’s manager approached me about designing the buddy icon to promote their upcoming release: Sonic Nurse. I was required to include the following:

  • Artist name
  • Album title
  • Release date
  • Album cover

How the hell was I going to fit all that within 50px and under 7kb?

I was young. I was nervous. Any future I thought I may have in the music business was about to be put to the ultimate test. I paused Half Life 2 and fired up Adobe ImageReady.

I searched for inspiration on Badass Buddy, the 21st fastest growing website [1], and decided to pursue recreating the band as buddy icon people. For typography, I went with a newly released pixel typeface designed by Yuji Oshimoto [2].

The next hour consisted of hand drawing thousands of pixels over nine frames of animation. I then used ImageReady to perfect the timing into something you might see in a Ridley Scott trailer. Finally, I threw in a bit of parody and completed my masterpiece:

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Thanks in part to our buddy icon campaign, Sonic Nurse debuted at 64 in Billboard’s Top 200 [3]. I went on to design for interfaces much larger than fifty pixels, but I’ll never forget my first.

[1] Noted at the bottom of their current website. Seriously.

[2] I have no idea how I remembered that.


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