RapRehab.com: Julian Alexander is the founder and CEO of Slang Inc., which is one of New York City’s leading design firms. The firm encompasses a wide range of design disciplines. It has expanded from its early days of print graphics to include retail and commercial environmental design, brand identity, product development and design, visual art direction, and advertising. The company’s work has won major awards, including a Grammy. Julian has worked on some of the most notable projects in hip hop including 50 Cent’s “Get Rich or Die Trying”, Eminem’s “Recovery”, and Game’s “The Documentary”. Since launching Slang Inc. in 2001 Julian has gone on to manage brand campaigns for several companies.
RapRehab.com: How do you define branding?
Julian Alexander: Branding is a very simple thing. It’s a sustainable point of view of a product, project, or entity. These things often exist in the world without explanation. So to give it consistency and a point of view branding is utilized to build a connection between a product and its audience. It’s how you boil things down to communicate to who you’re trying to reach so your message doesn’t get lost in the clutter. When I say Motown, you know to expect soul… When I say Def Jam you know to expect hip hop. These are examples of entities whose brand messaging taught their audience what to expect. It’s a point of view or a stance where you can make your claim as to what you’re about. The stronger that message the more meaningful your brand is to the audience or end user. A great example of how branding can be applied to an artist would be 50 Cent or Eminem. I’ve had the benefit of working with them so not only do I understand what the art looks like, but I’ve been privy to the process. Through branding they’ve really been able to project who they are and what they stand for over a consistent period in a variety of ways.
RapRehab.com: What inspired you to get into graphic design/branding?
Julian Alexander: I got into graphic design because I felt throughout my life I’ve been an artist but didn’t know how to make a living as an artist. Once I became aware of the graphic design field I felt I could live as an artist and still have some stability. I came up with the mentality that artists make money when they die… and that was something I didn’t want. I wanted to live off of my art in real time.
RapRehab.com: Can you tell us a little bit about the role visual identity plays in branding?
Julian Alexander: Graphic design is a part of visual identity. As a designer I’ve spent a lot of time working on developing visual languages that represented people. A prime example of that would be the (Jennifer Lopez) “J. Lo” logo. The logo I developed for her was for a specific album she was releasing. That logo went on to become a symbol that represented her music, fragrance, and clothing line. At the time I was working on that I didn’t even know those were areas she would go into… but we hit the mark because she felt that the logo was a symbol that tapped into who she was, what she was doing, and what she was saying.
RapRehab.com: What has been your experience with visual identity in the music industry?
Julian Alexander: Visual identity was something I came to understand over time through my work as a graphic designer. At first I had a very narrow vision and was only focused on getting a visual done… but I didn’t understand the bigger picture. Through experience I started to appreciate the full scope of the work I was doing and started to understand the value of a visual message and the impact it had on the brand. This all happened at a period where the music industry was changing and there was a lot of co-branding situations happening where you would see Beyonce as a musician… but then you’d also see her representing make-up (L’Oreal) or beverages (Pepsi). It was then I started to hear terms like strategic marketing and I started to understand how the visuals associated with a person fit into this evolving landscape. At that point I started to consider long term applications of what I was doing.
RapRehab.com: What advice would you give up and coming artists or entrepreneurs on visual identity/branding?
Julian Alexander: Know what you like. Know what you don’t like. Pay attention to everything. Try to be as aware as possible about what’s happening around you. Be aware of different cultures and disciplines. Pay attention to universal symbols. The more you have to draw from the better equipped you will be to use visual symbols to communicate.
RapRehab.com: What advice would you give up and coming artists or entrepreneurs on becoming successful in the entertainment industry based on the success you’ve been able to achieve?
Julian Alexander: I think it’s important to put yourself in a position to be surrounded by people who know a lot and who you can learn from. Once you are in that environment try to be an asset because the more you contribute the more exposure you will get to resources and opportunities that will allow you to advance.
RapRehab.com: Can you tell us a little more about Slang Inc.?
Julian Alexander: Slang Inc. was something that I envisioned because I wanted to be self employed. I used the term “Slang” in the name because it’s about informal communication. Slang is shorthand for the product and audience and it addresses a familiarity between the two. Slang Inc. has been in existence for over a decade at this point. Our role in branding has expanded to clients in varied fields. When I started out I wanted to only work in music. While music remains a passion, we have been blessed to expand the passion for our work to fashion projects, environmental design, motion graphics and more. We have been able to design retail spaces and event spaces and it allows us to creatively think differently. These are opportunities that were afforded to us because we remain open minded in our creative approach.
RapRehab.com: How can people work with Slang Inc. on a project?
Julian Alexander: We pay attention to all requests that we get. The website (slanginc.com) is the main entry point. If you find the contact page you can know that every email that comes in is checked out. We are also on instagram, twitter, and other forms of social media.
Sly Solomon is a writer, business consultant, and artist manager. Contact him on twitter @SlySolomon