Critical Reflection Essay

Isabel Pontin

  • How do the elements of your production work together to create a sense of ‘branding’?
  • How did your research inform your products and the way they use or challenge conventions?
  • How do your products represent social groups or issues?
  • How do your products engage with the audience?

Branding is a key aspect of an artist, it is a lifestyle illustrating a set of values, attitudes and beliefs. Their brand becomes a recognisable name, symbol or design and the aim is for that to stick in the audience’s mind. My artist is described as an angry and passionate feminist. She feels very strongly about gender politics and feels comfortable expressing this. She is a juxtaposition, this external woman with all the glitz and glamour with her desirable lifestyle yet there is the internal woman who is a tragic, broken girl who is suffering. Part of her imagined metanarrative involves the sense that she has been in an abusive relationship which became a central message and a part of the branding. All of these products work with one another coherently to portray my artist as my brand. From my work I want the audience to be able to decode the text from the ideology I have encoded into it, which was explained by Hall as part of the Reception Theory.

An example of where I have portrayed my star’s branding is through how I framed / shot her and the mise-en-scene especially in my music video which can be described as cathartic. She was placed in the center of the shot with a close up so you could focus on her facial expressions. The use of the black studio created a sense of vulnerability and a feeling of isolation from my artist.The low key and desaturated feel of all elements of the narrative in the music video communicates a sense of bleakness and desolation. By using low key lighting it emphasises this feeling of vulnerability and, in a sense, the video is confessional and an admission that she is alone in this dark world with trauma and hurt which is portrayed through her music and therefore conveysher brandas an artist.

As the producer, I encoded the issue of domestic abuse by keeping the consistency of the colour palette the audience will recognise the colour and this creates a new brand for my artist. I used the colour purple throughout my package, most noticeable  in the digipak and social media page. This colour can be decoded by the audienceto reference domestic abuse which is an issue close to my artists heart, the use of the colour highlights the importance of it and spreads awareness which in turn demonstrates how this helps to create a sense of branding.


When researching pop/RnB music videos it was obvious that the key narratives and themes were love and heartbreak – the typical love story and distress being portrayed. I broke the conventions and changed the repertoire of elements. These refer to the structure by which media texts may be compared in terms of similarity and differences in the narrative, star image/ performance, iconography and camera/editing (Lacey). These are the ‘ingredients’ that make it generic and conventional to the genre which I used in order to define the generic blueprint, some I chose to follow but others I subverted. The typical iconography for this genre includes natural, glamorous makeup with bold and statement jewellery. The costumes are dependent on the tone of the song but they are often true to the artist and used to express their personalities. The costume can be referred to as a label for the audience, they are used to predict whether the audience will get pleasure from the product.

The shot of my star laying in rubble  is an example of a highly unconventional feature using aspects of thriller film  iconography to convey the reality of domestic abuse. Conventionally the themes for a pop/RnB are love and lust however I have approached it differently showing the other type of love people experience. I have used a visual metaphor to convey the idea of a broken relationship and home. The greyness of the background is bleak and depressing, contrasting with a glammed up star who is expected to convey a desirable lifestyle. The broken building is portraying the wreck that is her life; it is a suggestive of a broken home from violence, representing many people’s realities.

An example of my research using the conventions to inform my music video was in the black studio shots. My aim was to focus on the star and encode her hurt and distress solely through the facial expressions and MES. Her body is bare portraying her wanting to be stripped down & vulnerable to her reality and people seeing the truth behind the glamour. I used a bare, dark background so my star stood out and all the attention was on her and the lyrics. 


To be able to connect with my audience I wanted to focus on a social issue, I chose to address domestic violence and the impact this has on an individual throughout my products. I used a semic code in my digipak to represent this. These refer to the narrative codes explained by theorist Barthes ; the symbolic code which is that of representing an object, the semic code referring to the use of connotations to give insight. Another important aspect of the product is how you represent the star image and the metanarrative. This was supported by Dyer’s theory where he suggested a star image is represented as both ordinary and extraordinary which I was able to illustrate through the inside covers of my digipak.

An example of representing a social issue in my product was in my digipak where I continued my design coherence including the colour purple. This colour being a semic code was used as it is the associated colour with domestic abuse. It is an issue I wanted to be recognised and acknowledged more publicly so by using subtle design aspects the audience will become aware of it and hopefully appreciate and learn about it. Her looking directly into the camera creates a feeling of solemness and this is intensified through the use of black and white contrasting with the bold purple.

Linking back to Dyer it is suggested we represent our star simultaneously as just like us but also at the same time special and different. I did this through the polaroid images used, which are signifiers of informality and immediacy. Some of them are of the star filming her music video looking all glammed up yet others are of her personal life, doing normal activities such as going on dog walks and wearing subtle and personal jewellery. They are also an example of a cultural code of youth and playfulness which is contrasted with the serious and distressing themes.


The most significant way to increase engagement with your audience is through marketing. There are two distinctive ways to approach this ; AIDA refers to a design tool and the marketing campaign relating to their audience and how the audience uses / seeks pleasure from the media. This is explained by Blumler and Katz theory of the active audience where they describe how the product endorses entertainment, information, social interaction and personal identity for the audience. Using my social media page as the core of my  marketing campaign I tried to focus on the idea of AIDA, my goals including to attract, interest, desire and ensure there was a call to action.

I wanted to create a buzz which is what marketing is all about. By posting a behind the scenes clip of the music video the audience are feeling they are getting an exclusive and an insight into my artist’s life. This helped to generate excitement around the release date, it felt closer for the audience and they were able to countdown. In addition to this it is also an opportunity for the audience to interact with the star, they feel they have been let in to part of her music life and can comment, like and share. This becomes part of their lives, they talk with their friends about it and therefore spread ‘exclusive’ news, they want to be the first to talk about it or share some of it which links back to Blumler & Katz social interaction theory. 

Women’s aid is a recognisable charity and reposting one of their posts meant my artist was giving the audience valuable and important information. It demonstrates how this charity and issue is personal to the artist consequently breaking the stigma surrounding domestic abuse and people who choose to reveal they are survivors of this. Even artists go through abuse, trauma and all sorts of issues similar to their audience but it’s okay to talk about. People see representations of the issue and charity, they realise the effect of it and like the artist want to make a change. This results in them sharing the post and awareness of the cause, making it viral, echoes the central message of the brand. This reflects well on my star for promoting this difficult issue faced by too many people in their daily lives. 


Critical Reflection Prep

• How do your products represent social groups or issues?

• How do the elements of your production work together to create a sense of ‘branding’?

• How do your products engage with the audience?

• How did your research inform your products and the way they use or challenge conventions?


Social Media Page – draft 1

Here is the link to the social media page to get a closer look…@kararayofficial 

I am pleased with how my social media page looks online and feel I have included significant marketing techniques that promote my artist in her own unique way. I used a consistent colour scheme and fonts – keeping to the colours of the digipak and music video from my artists, using pinks and purples. My page includes both photos and videos so the audience feel more engaged and it is interactive to keep them connected. My artist is a supporter and ‘brand ambassador’ for and wants her audience to understand her on a more personal and emotional level therefore I have included a repost from the womensaid to demonstrate who it is a charity close to Kara Ray’s heart.

Feedback from teacher with targets for improvement…

– Follow some similar artists and charities.

– Include a hashtag ‘say something’ something you’re trying to get trending.

– Good design coherence kept throughout to promote album.

– Add a date for when the album releases it, put as a caption?

– Include names on dogs.

– Use the album to promote a tour, or a link to merchandise.

– Keep referring back to hashtags or dates or links.

– Send some fans love saying thank you etc.

– Refer to other charities that link to the one already on there.

Timeline and Marketing ideas

Here is the list of posts I aim to include on my social media page, in this order.

These posts are not all about the release of the album but all come together to promote it and engage with her target audience. I want my artist’s followers to feel they are getting exclusive access into her life and feel they are personally connected with her so they are more inclined to buy her music. Through posting consistently and personal yet informative posts we are encouraging social interaction and impacts on people’s personal identity.

Audience interaction with a social media page – an analysis

I made a screencastify of comparative analysis of a professional social media page. For this task I chose to do this on Ella Mai’s Facebook again, this is because she is similar to my artist with the same demographics and values.

For this I referred back to AIDA… attract, interest, desire and action. I also referred to Blumler & Katz theory on uses and gratification. Analysing the effect the social media page has on the social interaction, personal identity, information and entertainment.

Social Media Page Terminology

To understand how a social media page works and how to create a successful one I needed to understand the conventions and terminology behind them.

Here I have analysed a Facebook page of an artist similar to mine, the same genre and the same target audience. This helped me use the key terms I had learnt and focused on the design, promotion and information given.

I described the connotations of the…

– header image

– profile picture

– images

– interactions she receives on her posts

Which are all significant aspects and conventions of an artist’s social media page.

Digipak Draft 2

Here if the second draft of my digipak, I have made significant improvements with adding the inside covers to this draft, however there are still many more edits to make. Below is my teachers screencastify with their feedback and some changes I will make from this.

From this feedback I am going to play around and try some things but am aware they may not work for example trying the album name in pink or swapping the colours around of the images on the back cover.

Improvements I will make for my final draft

– Add the artists name on the front.

– Add drop shadows to each polaroid image to add some density and make it look more realistic.

– Include text on each of the polaroids.

– Alter the sizing of the polaroids ensuring they are not all the same size, also jumble them up more by editing the rotations of some.

– Change the font of the track list to be more similar with the front cover and also add extra songs as 7 is not enough.

– Add the copyright info and details of the record labels and distribution company.

Music Video Draft 4

Overall I am pleased with how our video has come along and feel with each draft we make significant improvements. These changes are primarily focused on the colour / effects on the video as a whole with some edits to the cuts working with the pace of the song.

Some improvements we made to our draft 4 include :

– Colour corrections throughout

– Adding pace to the edit near the end where the music picks up

– Added masks to the black studio shots in particular to make the background darker and the performer’s face more bright. Also to the location shots to make the visual less bland and more music video like.

There are still more changes we could make to improve our music video and some of these are discussed in the video below of our peers and their comments on our draft 4.

Comments they made :

– Like the boldness of ‘every week’ to show the significance of it, the statistic gets you engaged and contextualises what the video is about.

– The dark lighting works well as the focus is on the performer.

– Good use of textures, large variety.

– [50 seconds] more glamourised, colour for example.

– Good use of high angles with direct eye contact with camera which breaks up the frames.

– What is the meaning behind the contrasting mise-en-scene ?

– [3.30 in particular] add in some push ins to get in some motion.

– Pull out nearer the end to give some more energy in the edit.

– Black studio shots, too static at some points.

Digipak Draft 1

Here is the front and back panes for my digipak. I pleased with how it is looking so far but have many aspects to improve on.

The aspects I am particular happy with is how my star’s emotions portray the story behind my choice for the digipak. Her eyes are glaring directly into the camera, it is very engaging and intense which is what I had hoped for. The nude look with lack of makeup contrasts with the bold, statement jewellery which is also used to convey my artist’s resistance to femininity, through her image and her songs she refuses to conform to the expectation put on females in society. The jigsaw effect on the back cover is a metaphor relating to the idea of her broken femininity and broken heart which is the basis of her songs.

However for next time I have a few targets to work on to improve my digipak…

– Match the pink shades used in the squares on the two covers.

– Choose a different font for the track list that again fits in with the genre and my artist.

– Align the squares correctly on the back as some as some are a bit off and means there are odd lines in random places.

– Include the inside right and left covers.

The inside panels for my digipak are going to be contrasting to the front and back. The front and back panels are very minimalist which I believe has been effective however for the inside panels I am aiming for more chaotic and busy images. I am going for a collage of the ‘behind the scenes’ images from the artist’s music video. This is to give the audience an inside into her life behind the cameras and what she is like on set. I hope to do this through the use of Polaroids and a grainy effect.

Here is the link to the PDF to take a closer look.