ON Designs

Jay Z On Design

Combining my passion for design, hip-hop, typography & web performance

Jay Z On Design is a fun project created for the 10K Apart contest. The challenge is that I had to select 10 quotes from Jay Z that can be interpreted into design and deliver them in a compelling web experience under 10K.

Responsive screenshots

The concept came to me while I was on vacation. Listening to Jay Z’s records while relaxing made me realized that his rhymes could translate to design. In “A Dream,” for instance, he reflects on what Biggie reminded him, “Nobody built like you. You design yourself.” To reference back to the source, I took Jay Z’s cover photo for The Blueprint2 turned it into a silhouette and incorporated the blue color into the background.

When Jay rhymes about hustling, I can see the cross reference to design. In “You Don’t Know,” he boasts: “I sell ice in the winter, I sell fire in hell / I am a hustler baby, I’ll sell water to a well.”

As a fan of Jay Z since the 90s, I’ve always appreciated his lyrical skills. On Funkmaster Flex’s The Mix Tape, Vol. 2, Jay freestyled: “I do anything when I put my mind to it / A whole lot more when I put a nine to it.” The first time I heard it, the chill ran through my spines. The second bar was frightening, but when I replace “a nine” with “design,” it makes complete sense for me.

In my initial design for this piece, I placed the number 9 in the background to reference the 9 millimeter and layered the quote in Helvetica on top. I didn’t want to put the gun in the composition to avoid controversy, but I changed my mind. I redesigned the piece using Courier New and a silhouette of the 9mm to create a brutalist look and feel. It’s a bold design, but I am not in any way trying to glamorize guns, so don’t criticize me for it.

In the final piece, I gave a throwback to the early days of the web with crazy colors, typefaces, and background patterns. Don’t we all love those good old designs? We didn’t have to follow any guidelines. We just designed with our own soul. Like Jay-Z said in “22 Two’s”: “I don’t follow any guidelines cause too many niggaz ride mine.”

To meet the 10K Apart’s requirements, each page is optimized to load in under 10 kilobytes and designed with accessibility, progressive enhancement, and art direction.

Without relying on front-end frameworks and JavaScript libraries, this site is built using basic HTML, CSS, and a dash of PHP. The types are set in system fonts and the graphical elements are displayed with SVG. I hope you enjoy this project.