Even in the digital age of streaming, where you see an album cover on an iPhone screen rather than a vinyl, cover art is a crucial part of any album’s creation. It sets the visual aesthetic for a musical artist’s sound, encapsulating in one image the entire musical catalog. More often than not, it serves as a teaser before the album drops.
Do you remember Over It by Summer Walker? Lil Boat 2 by Lil Yachty? Or My Turn by Lil Baby? Those are just a handful of the covers done by visual artist Mihailo Andic. And what’s more impressive than his resume, is the hustle that it took to get to where he is today.
In 2015, Andic worked at an advertising firm in Toronto full-time but found joy in moonlighting as a visual artist. He taught himself Photoshop and Illustrator and started sending out cold emails to artists with rough concepts for their cover art. A year later, and countless reach outs, an email from none other than Lil Yachty’s team popped up in his inbox. In a matter of weeks he put together the cover art for Lil Boat using photography from Yachty’s dad, a few stock images, and lots of manipulation on Photoshop. Four years and six album covers later, it’s safe to say that Andic is Yachty’s go-to creative director.
Along the way, he caught the attention of Quality Control, 6LACK, Migos, and PARTYNEXTDOOR to name a few. Not limited to just cover art, Andic has expanded his repertoire—he shot the image for Lil Boat 2 with no experience in photography. Below, we chat about his creative process, why young creatives should bet on themselves, and his favourite projects to date.
What made you want to pursue a career in visual art?
I went to school for creative advertising but I was always into music and visual arts. At the time, I was around all these musical artists from Toronto and I was trying to figure out what my career path was going to be. It kind of just started off with cover art, logos, and random flyers for all these artists I knew. I started messing around with Photoshop and Illustrator and after about a year into advertising, the thought came to me that I was going to be doing this for the long run.
What is your creative process when approaching a new project?
I have two processes that I kind of go about when I’m first getting a project or a brief. I’ll usually ask the client if they have any ideas or references for how they want the project to turn out. If they do, they usually send three to five images for reference and I’ll take that in. I don’t follow it to the T, but it gives me a good idea of what to stay away from and what direction to take the visual. Or a client will just give me 100% creative freedom, which is always great because if it’s a designer or creative and you’re a big fan of their work, it’s nice to get that trust from them.
What does a typical workday look like for you right now?
It varies. The beauty of freelance is you can make your own schedule. A lot of my clients are on the west coast, so my day starts a little later. I started implementing a new schedule that doesn’t focus on work right away when I wake up. So I’ll usually do something completely different from design or visuals, and an hour or two into my day, I’ll start checking emails and turn my phone on. Then I’ll get into a few hours of work; if I have to answer any emails or calls I’ll do that. Late into the afternoon, I’ll probably take a break, and then it’s like an interval shift. I’ll start working on something around 11 pm-midnight, and that’s when I’m most creative. So a lot of work comes out late at night and that could go until 3 to 4 am.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part is not the work actually, it used to be the work. But in the last two years, with my platform and the people that reach out to me. I’ve realized that the most rewarding part is inspiring and helping the younger generation of visual artists and designers. It’s rewarding being able to talk to all these young designers and give them advice or walk them through something, I didn’t have that for myself, and it’s always nice to have someone there that’s been through it and can help navigate you through your journey.
What advice would you give to those looking to get into the industry?
A lot of young designers have come to me and they’re like “I’m working this job, but I’m also kind of hustling on the side. And I really want to make my dreams work, but I just don’t feel the confidence.” I always encourage them to take a bet on themselves and go all-in with freelance. Something that I struggled with early on was self-confidence. I didn’t really think that I could pull it off and it took me a long time to realize my worth and the potential that I could reach. So I would say you have to go all-in if you feel like this is what you’re passionate about. You can make this a lifelong career; you have to take that chance because this could be your gift and something that you’re meant to do. When you have that feeling, it’s always best to trust your instincts.
Out of all the work you’ve done, is there any project or cover that stood out to you as really impactful or iconic?
I have two. The first one was back in 2017, and it was Teenage Emotions with Lil Yachty. That was the cover in the theater with all the different kids from high school. That was a really impactful cover because I think at the time, we didn’t have a visual from anyone in hip-hop with that much inclusion. When Yachty and I were coming up with that, it was really important for us to get that idea across that it came from the heart.
And then my personal favourite was Lil Boat 2 for Lil Yachty. We started thinking about conceptualizing it in Atlanta. We had this plan to shoot it the next day at a lake, and that didn’t work out. Yachty had to travel to LA, so I went a day earlier to scout out locations. I had to rent a camera and it was a whole ordeal. But when we were at the shoot, it all felt like it was falling into place. The next day, I took the time to put together as many options as possible and it was approved on the spot. We completed that in a few days because we had a deadline to reach but I learned a lot, and it came out as one of my favourite projects. I didn’t realize it at the time but I think that was the moment I realized this is what I was made to do. And the first time I acknowledged I’m really good at this, and I love doing it.
There’s such a collaborative component to creating visuals for big artists or brands. What are some of the best creative collaborations you’ve had?
The first one, this goes back to the Teenage Emotions cover, we got Kenneth Cappello to shoot that. That was one of the most enjoyable experiences because he’s so good at what he does. Everything fell into place working with him, we had a great time, there was a lot of problem-solving, and figuring out how we were going to piece this whole project together. But working with him was amazing, because he’s really collaborative, and he knows exactly what he’s doing. He has an idea in his head, and he executes it.
The second one was with a director, his name is Drew Kirsh. This was for the first music video that I ever co-directed, it was for Yachty and Trippie Red’s song “66”. I’d never been on set for a music video before or gone through the whole process of writing and putting together a treatment, and he was great. The way that he collaborated and helped me out, he was so helpful, and we figured it all out together as if we were in the process of doing that video for the first time. I hope that in the future, we get to work on another video as well.