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Norma Jean Vocalist Will Have Fun Designing for Your Band

Norma Jean

Besides his role as frontman for metaliic rock powerhouse Norma Jean, Cory Brandan moonlights as a graphic designer for fellow bands — but don’t refer to it as ‘work.’ He finds inspiration for his work ethic in a famous quote. “It’s ‘Do what you love, and you won’t work a day in your life.’ I think it was [said] by a doctor,” Brandon told Noisecreep. “He loved being a doctor, and someone asked him how work was, and he said that ‘I love what I do. It’s not really work to me. It’s like something fun. I look forward to it.’ So, it’s kind of what I live by, in a way.”

Brandan takes the concept to heart so much that its influence found its way into the name under which he designs: UNwork. “I mean, it’s a word in the dictionary somewhere. I don’t think I ever looked it up though, now that I think about it. I remember looking it up to see if it is a word, but I don’t remember reading the definition. I kinda thought of it as — I kinda have fun with it, in a way.”

The definition of ‘unwork’ is ‘to destroy or undo, as in previous work.’ While Brandan chose the name without the meaning in mind, the definition is fitting given his style of design: desaturated, distorted and decayed. Brandan ‘unworks’ the elements of design that some would preserve intact and blushed with color.

Brandan’s life with Norma Jean and other musical projects draw precious time away from design work, which affects the bare numbers of his output. “I’ll do a few designs a year, honestly,” he explained. “And I’ll just do stuff on my own or mess around with different things. Usually when I do make a flyer or poster, I’ll make more than one. There will be like six different versions.”

Bands performing harder, less family-friendly forms of music have fostered the DIY work ethic based on necessity, and the musician-as-designer is a traditional dichotomy. The origins of UNwork are found in this phenomenon. “When I first started in bands,” Brandon began explaining, “we didn’t have money for multiple colors or these full color shirts. We’d buy our own screens, print them ourselves on inside-out thrift store shirts. And the designs were really bad.”

Landing a job at a screen printing company allowed him first-hand knowledge on the basics of design and printing, which has certainly expanded his skills. He specializes, though, in designs that are inexpensive to print — perfect for bands looking to cut costs. “So the whole idea basically is that I make a design that looks really awesome from one color, for bands that aren’t going to have the money to spend to buy six-color designed shirts. It’s kind of like an old-school punk rock way, but the designs are intricate. It’s not just like your name and like, a skull. But if you want that, I can do that for five bucks.”

Norma Jean has a new album in the works and will be heading out this summer on the Rockstar Mayhem Festival.

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