When Sonia AKA Raver Jinn – a graphic designer and multimedia artist – was growing up in Michigan, their grandpa came across a Photoshop CD and gifted it to the budding artist. Soon enough, Photoshop became a gateway to another world. A “play space”, they tell us, that helped ease the isolation of living in a small town. Now based in Brooklyn, Raver Jinn frequently collaborates with DJs and producers in the music industry, honing a craft where music meets design in a co-developing manner. “I imagine them to be in a whirlpool together,” they explain of their intersecting interests.
Though collaboration is key to Raver Jinn’s practice nowadays, it wasn't quite the case in the beginning (shortly after their grandpa gifted them the Photoshop CD). It was the creative autonomy of being able to make work by themselves, without being tied to anyone else’s timelines, which initially attracted them to graphic design. But over the years, this has developed into another kind of practice, one filled with cross-disciplinary exploration and not to mention communal support: “What keeps me interested in graphic design many years later,” they say, “is BIPOC artists who are transgressing design norms and designing for uprising.”
Celebrating BIPOC artists and designers in this wonderfully diverse directory, an elemental aspect of Raver Jinn’s practice is about supporting the BIPOC creative community. Amidst this, they initially created Raver Jinn as a way to translate properties of jinnhood: this includes “gender expansiveness, playfulness, haunting, good/evil duality, transformation (or unlearning) within my art, work and interpersonal relationships.” In turn, these multi-layered ideas are expressed visually through a distinct aesthetic which is both bright and sinister at the same time.
Gradients, orb shapes, warped text and small symbols make a common appearance throughout their work. More recently, this has evolved to include hints to nature. They incorporate archival nature photography, maps, cartoon insects and plant diagrams into their atmospheric designs. And, coupled with a losing interest in negative space, over time, they’ve noticed their work becoming more visually dense to reflect such themes. As a result, Raver Jinn’s work evokes a unique energy, an embodiment of experimentation coupled with meaningful motifs.
“Rave design is one of my favourite kinds of work to do,” they add, “because I’m usually trusted and encouraged to be more experimental.” It provides Raver Jinn with a space to evolve their intersecting work with music and design. Vintage rave imagery has permeated the mainstream design canon, an example of how many musical artists think about the power of design and what it can communicate to an audience. “It’s still the first medium many DJs and producers turn to conjure a world before it can exist IRL,” says Raver Jinn, and in this way, their practice draws out key points of accessible information set against a more tonal or conceptual backdrop.
Raver Jinn's work has a vivid aesthetic, as seen in Mood Ring – a staple club-cum-bar in Brooklyn. When they first moved to New York from DC, they booked several of their closest BIPOC DJ friends to play with them. “This was a special milestone for us,” they recall, “and I think that energy translated while I was designing the flyer. I figured out a different way of layering gradients that informed nearly every other commission for the rest of the year.”
Elsewhere in their work, Raver Jinn recently created a shirt design about life lessons from guerrilla grafting; a practice of bringing clippings of fruiting trees to non-fruiting trees so they can grow fruit. Following a few weeks of researching into the practice, touching on guerrilla grafting science, tools and imagery, they were able to synthesise these finding into their observations on gender, ecology, resilience and conflict meditation. If offered, Raver Jinn would express their own creative direction as opposed to the more commercial briefs.
And to catch more of their work going forwards, they are currently designing for Studio Ānanda (founded by Fariha Róisin and Prinita Thevarajah) who have recently launched an archive of resources centring the wisdom of BIPOC healers. Amidst this, Raver Jinn is also hoping to self-publish more research on garments next year, design merchandise for DJs and producers and, to top it all off, pursue some slower mediums which they’ve been exploring since lockdown. We can’t wait to see how their jewellery-making, sewing, floral design and music production will inform their graphic design in the future.
About the Author
Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.