This Fela album cover was designed by a self-taught artist known as Lemi Ghariokwu. To really understand this piece of art, one has to briefly look at who Fela was, and what his music symbolized.
As the inventor of the deep, pounding, African music known as Afrobeat, Fela used his works to convey his strong sociopolitical outrage at a myriad of issues such as corruption, false imprisonment, "colonial mentality," and even skin bleaching.
Ghariokwu gained his fame as the artist who designed most of Fela's album covers. Fela handpicked him because of his freestyle street art, as well as his accurate conveyance of the message of non-conformity.
Hierarchy of elements within this album cover
Negative/positive space composition
The designer finds a way to have something going on in every piece of negative space on this album cover. The subject matter, that is the song, is about the skin bleaching fad that many African women do. "Yellow Fever" alludes to the skin color rendered after a darker skinned woman uses bleaching creams. So we see two main images of a lighter skinned African woman. In the upper left is an image of a tube of skin bleaching cream. Then the fonts... The negative space has an element of movement, with the sweeping paint brush accenting the curves of the woman.
I tried to find this piece's grid lines, and was able to create lines along the positive space elements of the poster.
Number and variation of typefaces
Ghariokwu's illustration and use of typeface, is freestyle and hand painted. He creates his own fonts to align with the energy of his design. Here he uses a comic strip typeface for the title, and a different font for Fela's name.
Below are the typeface the illustrator uses, and how it was represented in some available fonts. The closest fonts are those that appear to look like that from a paint brush.
The fonts used for "Yellow Fever" were not found on MyFonts and other font identification Websites.
Palette and identify the color system
The designer uses natural light elements to show the actual color of the subject matter's skin. Woven-in is a blend of medium hues:
- Baby blue
- Light mustard
- Royal blue
- Lime green
The stronger colors, yellow, royal blue, black are used to highlight his typeface.
I stumbled upon Ghariokwu's works out of curiosity. I always wondered how these covers were conceived so poignantly. He, like Fela with music, shows his disdain for society in his illustrations. He borders on insult and uses his work as a buffer, in the name of art.