Before we deep dive into the good stuff, allow us to introduce ourselves. We’re Josephine Tansara (Art Director), Edward Yeung (ACD/art director), and Jillian Menor (ACD/copywriter), three creatives on the Brand and Creative team behind this year’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPIHM) campaign. We were tasked to come up with a way to celebrate API creators and the community, during a time when it’s hard to celebrate. And yet, this was our amazing opportunity to create something we aren’t only passionate about, but something that we feel is deeply rooted, relatable, and ownable across the API diaspora. Now, we get to share a part of our culture with you all. By sharing what AAPIHM means in this climate, the thinking that led us to our creative narrative, the exploration of our design language and the incredible work that brought it all to life, we hope that this project not only educates, but inspires us all to come together in a time when it matters most.
Making the Brand: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
Lei ho! Kumusta! As-salaam alaikum! Hello! First and foremost, happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Spotify fam! 📣
Every May since 1977, Asian and Pacific Islander history, culture, and achievements have been widely recognized and celebrated by millions across the United States. In the past, creative achievements of the community were often overshadowed, underestimated, and undersold. But this year, it really seemed like we were finally getting the recognition we deserved. From Parasite dominating the Academy Awards to Awkwafina winning the Golden Globe for Best Actress in The Farewell to Riz Ahmed sounding off on what it means to be a brown man in the entertainment industry, Asian creators were gaining significant visibility in Western media. It really seemed like 2020 was our year. However, the rise and spread of COVID-19 turned everything upside down. The growing threat of coronavirus began stirring up daily news reports of anti-Asian assaults, harassment, and hate crimes in the country. Regardless if you were young or old, an immigrant or American-born, it seemed like the API community was being unjustly targeted. Even members of our team have experienced xenophobia while being out in public, from getting called racial slurs to being physically shoved. Just for being Asian. And on top of it all, for the first time in our lifetime, the country was being forced to go into lockdown to slow down the spread of the virus. How in the hell were we supposed to come up with a campaign all about celebrating our culture when we couldn’t even go outside?!
Oh, hey, there. This is where we come in. Spotify’s global Asian community groups, SPACE and Desis, originally reached out to us on B&C to come up with a visual identity and platform campaign that unites, empowers, and celebrates Asian and Asian American creators. One of the original ideas was to throw a party in New York City. Mind you, this was pre-lockdown (sigh, remember those days?). After social distancing became mandated mid-March, and after hearing countless daily news stories about Asians getting attacked...we realized that we were missing a sense of community. We needed something bigger than just your standard party. We needed to make a statement. We had a voice that had to be heard and it was time to let the world know. So we wrote the following manifesto to sound off for us:
Asian American and Pacific Islander Month
is about amplifying the rising voices who are redefining culture.
Now, more than ever, do these voices need to be heard.
This is our time to be proud of where we come from.
To unite, empower, and celebrate.
Not only Asian creators, but their fans across the globe.
Together, let’s drown out the negative.
Turn up the positive.
And defy the noise.
Let's show the world...
Our roots. Our sound.
And there it is. OUR ROOTS. OUR SOUND. Our anthem. Four words that pay homage to the deeply rooted history that paved the way for our sound of today. It wasn’t just a line that felt ownable to the API community - it was something we wanted to share with everyone, no matter the race or ethnicity.
For the second year in a row, this year’s design was headed by Josephine, with Edward contributing to push the limits of the art direction. Initially seen as an internal campaign, the 2020 ask was to spotlight and celebrate the entire Asian community through a visual refresh that would give the existing platform the voice and personality it deserves. Last year’s design brought to life bits and pieces across the broad spectrum of Asian cultures and influences, but this year, we took it even further making sure the visual felt more relatable and playful by incorporating vintage posters, magazine covers, and other promotional materials found in API culture. Doing so helped us create a design that not only feels fresh and contemporary, but authentic to our creative narrative.
Using Spotify’s color palette, we picked and paired colors that feel bold and vibrant, capturing the wide range of culture across the diaspora. We highlighted each artist by framing them in the middle of the composition, keeping them in full color, front, and center. We then surrounded them with design elements that would not only complement the color palette, but are also representational of objects that abstractly capture the nature and richness of Asian culture. For example: orchids, hummingbirds, lotus, turmeric, and dragonfruit.
We also pushed the visual identity and system of this year’s design, exploring what it could look like using artist photographs, type and fun, playful head cutouts. This year’s exploration gave us more room to play on-platform, out of home, social, and merch (which you’ll see in a bit.) Not to gas us up, but doesn’t it all look gorgeous??? 😍😍😍
On to the work! One of the most rewarding parts of this project was creating a community within our own team. Many teams were so willing to jump in and help bring the project to life—B&C, ERG, markets, marketing, editorial, social, ALM, PR, social, and others. To say this was a team effort is definitely an understatement, so from the bottom of our creative hearts, thank you all.
For the first time ever, we launched an AAPIHM hub on-platform, which was a huge feat, considering that creating a hub wasn’t even part of the initial ask. Working closely with editorial, we also created the Sound of Our Roots playlist, highlighting API artists of the past who revolutionized sound for the future. Celebrities and influencers like Awkwafina, Hasan Minhaj, Lana Condor, and Gold House took over our owned and operated Amplify playlist, while other top playlists like Beast Meets West, No Borders, and Desi Hits were visually rebranded to fit within the campaign.
Another big win for us was launching 16 pieces of out-of-home in three major cities: New York, Philadelphia, and Toronto. We were extremely fortunate to get massive exposure in Times Square and Penn Station. Mama, we made it!
On social, we worked with 18 artists, including Steve Aoki, NIKI, Rich Brian, Tokimonsta, Riz Ahmed, mxmtoon, Eric Nam, and Raveena, to create liners sharing how they’re celebrating their API roots on Instagram. While many artists happily shared the work on their social channels, Riz Ahmed even recorded himself rapping an excerpt from his track, “Where You From,” off his latest album The Long Goodbye.
On Instagram, fans could show off their API pride with a vibrant, exclusive filter with three colorways.
Along with creating long-sleeve T-shirts, bandanas, and stickers for our internal team, we also created exclusive custom incense and tea to gift artists and influencers—transforming our campaign into something that people could not only see and feel, but smell and taste, too.
And that’s our show! Not bad for a campaign that was originally only going to be an internal project, eh? We had sooo much fun working on this (maybe too much fun lol.) One of the most important lessons we learned throughout this process is to keep pushing for the work you truly believe in. Because every once in a while, you might be able to spin a small project into a campaign that’s been featured in over 11 press pieces including 2 Billboard features (1 & 2) and an article in People, with over 700 million social impressions. And to our Asian and Pacific Islander family reading this—be proud of your roots, no matter where you’re from. We’ve got a voice and it’s beautiful. It’s up to us to use it.
Thanks for reading!
Much love from Josephine, Edward, and Jill :)
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