This blog post about a fun contest we just launched for our design community originally ran on our Designer Blog. After several staffers pointed out that some of our customers are likely to be as huge fans as Daft Punk as we are, we thought we’d share it with you. We expect quite a few entries in the days ahead, so bookmark the contest link (below) and check in often to see what our designers come up with!
“Everybody likes to dance, it makes people happy.” This quote from Giorgio Moroder, all-around house music provocateur and collaborator on the new Daft Punk album, pretty much sums up our new contest, as we here at 99designs have been officially Daft Punked!
This legendary French duo, comprised of Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, have done nothing less than revolutionize electronic music. The band’s work has been featured across a wide variety of platforms, both audio and visual, and their output is far greater than just the scant 3 albums they have released in the 15 years since their inception.
But finally, here comes album No. 4: Random Access Memories, Daft Punk’s first album in 8 years, is set to be released May 21. So we decided to get you as amped up as we are by throwing a community contest to design a poster to coincide with the new album’s release.
To help you out with the contest, we’ve compiled a collection of fun tidbits to get those creative juices flowing. This should be heaps fun — how often do you get to have a dance party and a designing party all in one?!
Daft Punk started out when Bangalter and de Homem-Christo started the band Darlin’. Their sound was dismissed by a music mag as “simply daft punk”. When the duo decided to go electronic, the world was changed.
These masters of technology began their ascent when they gave their demo to a record producer at a rave at EuroDisney in 1993. Now THAT sounds like fun. Over the next 4 years these techno-geniuses (they’re so good, dare I call them robots?) honed their sound down to the finest minutiae and released their first album Homework in 1997.
This is one of the first known implementations of the band’s logo and font, which would be a trademark of their brand for their career to come.
The album was noted for its creative combination of previously existing dance music styles like house, techno, acid house and electro (yes, they’re actually all different!). The album sparked an interest in French electronica and began to bring Eurodance to the mainstream. Additionally, the album featured some funk-y elements, relating to the 70′s genre, especially the group Chic, one of whose key members was Nile Rogers, a purported collaborator on RAM (as the new album has come to be affectionately known in the Daft Punk community, oh and trust there is quite the community).
Chic’s funk classic Good Times is clearly a major influence on the duo’s sound. And apparently their color scheme. Note the similarities between this image of the funk legends and the Around the World video as well as the beginning of film Interstella.
They are the robots
It was during tours for this album that the duo began to wear their now iconic robot masks, intended to maintain the mystery surrounding the group. The artists have since said that they implemented these disguises to maintain their privacy, but many theorists and critics believe it has only served to increase their intrigue and popularity.
TThese masks soon became the duo’s calling card and could be seen everywhere from a Gap Commercial (yeah, we know, not so techno) to a cameo in their own film Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem (see below) and in a film they scored (and provided much visual inspiration for): Tron:Legacy.
Derezzed – Daft Punk, single release from the Tron: Legacy soundtrack album
Additionally, their live shows were focused not only on the music but also on visual elements and effects. Their live show emphasized their intrinsic belief in, and connection to, science fiction and technology (where the term ‘techno’ gets its roots in the first place).
Daft Punk Masters the Music Video Game
The album also spurred 4 music videos, each directed by a different visionary director. These videos represent Daft Punk’s interest in not being solely a musical group but also storytellers and the creators of a distinctive visual aesthetic.
First: Da Funk directed by Spike Jonze
The video strongly emphasized the story over the music, with much of the video featuring dialogue over the wordless song. Additionally, the video was given a title, Big City Nights, different from the name of the song itself. This title represents a theme inherent in this video and the group’s overall themes, the city and its inhabitants, especially those a bit outside of mainstream culture.
Second: Around the World directed by Michel Gondry
This video artistically conveyed, and toyed with, the ideas of repetition in electronic music. The video also celebrated the freakish and otherworldly images and feelings often associated with electronica.
Third: Burnin’ directed by Seb Janiak
Fourth: Revolution 909 directed by Roman Coppola
This video focuses on elements of rave culture, too, going so far as to depict an underground show. It was these ideals that Daft Punk helped to bring from underground alleyways to the mainstream. Songs from the album were also featured in the film The Saint, marking the beginning of Daft Punk’s keen interest in cinema, particularly that of the science fiction variety — a common theme running through most electronica.
Next up came Discovery, an album intended to be playful and childlike.
The tracks feature a return to songlike structure, with more vocals than in previous albums, and mechanical imitations of “real” instruments like guitar. The album was intended to be a tribute to the 70s and early 80s funk and synth pop, and the space disco groups that influenced the duo. The space disco theme is apparent in the shiny molten-metal logo on the album cover.
Check out the imagery from this space disco classic:
The group’s robot heads also took a change in form:
The duo also started incorporating matching robot-style gloves into their increasingly elaborate costumes (big fame, big robot outfits).
In 2003, the group released the film Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem. [video link]
This film or, as some call it, a “space opera,” was a seminal moment in the group’s visual career. Incorporating Japanese themes and anime style, the movie’s plot and aesthetic is reminiscent of the 80s cult classic television show Jem and the Holograms. It shows the ideals of the group to be aligned more with live bands than electronic groups, with characters playing guitars, drums, and singing Daft Punk’s synth-laden tunes.
And look — the guys make a cameo in the film (in their helmets of course).
Human After All (or are they?)
It almost does seem inhuman how prominent these 2 had become by the time they released their 3rd studio album, Human After All.
Human After All — 2005. This third implementation of the band’s now iconic font and logo appears on a TV screen to underscore the album’s message of contemporary pop culture and the dark side of television.
In 2007, the dudes continued their world domination by collaborating with hip-hop king Kanye West for his smash hit Stronger, contributing the ever-so-catchy hook from their single, “Harder, Better, Faster, Stonger”.
The video, set in Japan, has many overlaps with the themes of Interstella 5555, including a cameo from the duo.
Kanye West — Stronger; thanks Yeezy
Diving into cinema
Television may rule the nation, but it was around this time that Daft Punk really started ruling cinema. First there was the whole Tron: Legacy thing: the duo created the film’s score and which seemed to be based entirely on the Daft Punk aesthetic. Perhaps a huge part of the reason for the film’s success were the diehard fans who flocked to see the film as of pseudo-concert while they waited for their lovable robots to go around the world again.
The duo soon directed their own film, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and starred “Daft Punk” actors wearing their signature helmets.
Now, finally, after much much wait, comes the new album, and not a moment too soon. Giorgio Moroder says the album will be “a step forward for dance music,” and judging from the 10-second clip offered by the group, it will be heavily disco-influenced. Check out Moroder’s interview on the album here.
A roundup of visual themes
In conclusion, here’s a collection of the themes related to, inspired by and propagated by the band:
- HUMAN v. MACHINE
- HISTORY OF ELECTRONICA AND RAVE CULTURE
- BRIGHT COLORS (pink, blue, yellow)
As stated in the beginning of Interstella 5555, ”Musicians are magicians.” But hey, so are designers — so get working harder, better, faster, stronger. And don’t forget to let the music get you feelin’ so free.
Finally, a listening/viewing list to get you in the groove:
- Homework (1997)
- Discovery (2001)
- Alive 1997 (2007)
- Human After All (2005)
- Alive 2007 (2007)
- Tron: Legacy Soundtrack (2010)
- Random Access Memories Clip (2013)
- Links to a TON of live show streams
Feel free to check out our earlier article on the aesthetics of electronic music through the ages for some inspiration!
So what are you waiting for? Start dancing and designing now!
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