Renowned Dutch digital designer Robbin Cenijn - together with independent developer Artistide Benoist - created a beautifully crafted website where users can discover the music of Icelandic artist Önnu Jónu Son, and obtain information around the release of the album The Radio Won’t Let Me Sleep. Each month a new song and video will be added onto the website until the release of the album in Spring 2024. Each month there is something new to discover and share. The client: Önnu Jónu Son
Önnu Jónu Son is the stage name of Haraldur Thorleifsson. Haraldur was active in the Icelandic music scene in the late 90s. The name Önnu Jónu Son is a reference to his mother, who he lost when he was eleven years old. By taking his mothers name, he was able to use her memory, love, support and nurturing as protection from any self doubt, fear of external criticism.
The album The Radio Won't Let Me Sleep is his return to music.
Half of the songs are written in the mid 90s and the other half in 2023. Each of the 11 songs will be released with a short movie made by artists from Singapore, Brazil, Hungary, Sweden, Somalia, Iceland and from other places across the world.The songs are personal stories of love, loss, loneliness and a struggle to find moments of happiness.
Behind the scenes - UI & UX design
When starting to work on the website, Robbin and Aristide knew very little about the project: there will be videos and each song will be released over time. This wasn't much to go on. So initially, they worked on concepts based on the album artwork (by Brijan Powell). However, when they saw a rough edit of the first video, they started working on an interface where the video played a bigger role.
They wanted people to connect with the music as fast as possible, and let the video do the work. Instead of giving the user an overview of all songs first.
With the music and video leading, they created an intuitive UI that becomes visible on movement of your mouse (tab on mobile). A horizontal scrollable timeline gives you an overview of the tracks on the album: the songs that are released, as well as when others will be released. For all other pages there is a menu with all options you can explore whilst listening to the music.
A new song = a fresh looking site
Not every colour worked with each music video. So Robbin turned this problem into an opportunity. The UI was designed in a way that it could change colour for each song. With each release of a new song and music video, the site looks very different.
No ordinary video-scrubber
Scrubbing is a convenient feature that allows you to quickly navigate through videos and find the content you are looking for.
They didn’t want to create a normal scrubber, but one that was more in line with the rest of the site: a visual strip of scenes hinting at what the song and video were about. This way you can visually see what is coming. Not only for all songs featured, but also within each video.
Icing on the cake: mobile audio experience
As Robbin and Aristide were aware that many people would visit the website on their phone, they did everything to make the experience the same on mobile as on desktop. Putting in a little bit of extra effort to make it work fullscreen, in landscape and portrait.
Love the attention to the elements and interactions. It all comes together in a very nice and atmospheric way! Christian Mezöfi, Dutch Digital Design curator & head of design at Dentsu Creative Amsterdam