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Tierra Connor’s Designs for Discount Sound

By Leslie Anne Peterson

Edmonton, Canada, is a city ruled by its hockey team, the Oilers. The city’s morale rises and falls with the dramas that play out on the ice, and the late ’80s saw the team at their peak. “We felt like champions because we won the Stanley Cup back when Wayne Gretzky played here,” muses Tierra Connor, an illustrator and Edmonton native whose love for the Oilers found its way into a recent branding project.

A graduate of MacEwan University’s design program, Connor always wanted to be an illustrator. Her mother, who also once dreamed of being a professional artist, raised Connor on her own. They fanned the flames of ambition in each other—for art, and for life. “She always made sure I had the tools I needed,” Connor says. “Pens, pencils, everything. She fully supported my dream.”

Connor’s upbringing and her obsession with classic type are evident in her work, which she treats with an intentional lack of polish to create a signature look.

Tierra Connor’s designs for Discount Sound, a Canadian record label.

SOUND IN DETAIL

A fine example of her style is her lovingly rendered branding for Discount Sound, an Edmonton recording studio. It’s in the way the colors shift and bleed into one another, as in a mid-century print. It’s in the grain that gives the feel of a vintage vinyl sleeve—and, of course, it’s in the blues and oranges strategically stitched throughout: Oilers colors.

Record labels and Connor’s memories of growing up in Edmonton were her reference for the project. “The brand should feel accessible to up-and-coming musicians. Somewhere they know they’ll be treated well. I wanted to get into that mindset before opening up Illustrator CC.”

THE JOY AND SORROW OF THE PERFECT BRIEF

By all accounts, this should have been a golden brief for Connor. After all, it was in a style that was part of her own identity as a designer. “The client wanted it to look like vintage 45s—you know, old Atlantic Records kind of stuff.”

And in some ways, it was golden: Connor immersed herself in her work, tangled in the swoops and swirls of her beloved outdoor signage–inspired type. Then she hit a block, and the exercise took a frustrating turn.

The more frustrated she got, the more her passion became just another tedious task, “My first concepts were too structured. I was overthinking everything to the point where I was sucking the life out of it,” she explains.

Another recent project, Necessities, highlights Connor’s style. See more of her work on her Behance profile.

So Connor tried again, and this time, she embraced what felt most natural to her. She let go of trying to control the process, and made room to entertain every idea…even the ones that didn’t make sense. In the end, she found that the secret to successful design was letting things happen organically, and finding ways to have fun. “The client loved everything,” Connor says. “I didn’t expect to almost be done—I wanted to work on it a bit more.”