Mix Tape Assignment

English 213: Mix Tape Assignment

(Worth 10% of your grade; due on September 11)


Geoffrey O’Brien, editor-in-chief of the Library of America, once called mix tapes “the most widely practiced American art form.” Sadly, with the advent of CDs and MP3s, the mix tape has almost vanished from popular culture. Although you may not have created a mix tape (or even a mix CD), chances are that you have shared iTunes playlists with friends or compiled some type of collection of your favorite songs. This assignment asks you to select and arrange an audio compilation, upload it to a music-sharing website (8tracks.com), and promote the mix with a poster that complements the aural qualities of the compilation.

Once you have created your mix, you will share it with the other members of the class throughout the rest of the semester. Each week, you will listen to the mix of a different classmate and comment on it in an online forum on the class website. Not only will this project expose you to new music and ask you to think critically about your classmates’ work, it will help you get to know the other members of the class and find out what “makes them tick.”

Getting Started

Your work on this assignment will center on three specific activities:

Creating the mix: Your mix should center around a theme, follow a narrative structure, or reveal some important aspect of your personality. In other words, your classmates (the primary audience for this assignment) should know you a little better after they have listened to your mix. As you consider what songs you want to include in your compilation, try to identify a theme or storyline to guide your selection. Your mix should not simply be “My Favorite Songs”; rather, a common thread should run through the entire collection, and the arrangement of songs should be coherent and discernable by the listener. Although I’m not a fan of censorship, I do ask that you try to avoid including aggressively violent or sexual content on your mix, out of respect for your classmates, who will be required to listen to your compilation. (At minimum, you should include some type of warning on the poster if your CD may be offensive to other members of the class.) We will use 8tracks.com, an online mix tape generator, to share our playlists, so the songs you add to your mix will need to be in MP3 format.

Designing the poster: Once you have completed and uploaded your mix, you will turn your attention to the old-fashioned genre of music promotion: the poster. For decades, artists have created posters to promote new albums and live concerts. Your poster will be a visual companion to your mix tape; it should convince your potential audience to listen to the mix and should enhance the audience’s listening experience. We will use Adobe Photoshop and InDesign to create our posters. You may create your own artwork from scratch, use photographs you have taken, or find images online. The only text that must appear on the poster is the URL of your mix (e.g., http://8tracks.com/warnick). As with all assignments in this class, if you borrow or build upon the work of others, you must acknowledge the original source of the materials you’re using and properly cite them in your memo (and, if possible, on the poster itself).

Writing the memo: Although your audience should learn more about you by listening to your mix, sometimes the songs alone can’t tell the whole story. For decades, musicians have included explanations, stories, acknowledgements, jokes, etc., in the liner notes of their albums. In a short memo (one-page, single-spaced), you will explain and justify the decisions you made in selecting and arranging your mix and in creating your poster. You memo may also briefly describe your work process or address any difficulties you encountered as you completed this project.

Assignment Details

We will spend two days in the lab discussing the art of making mix tapes and working through basic Photoshop and InDesign tutorials. You will need to select, arrange, and upload the playlist outside of class. To print your poster, you will meet with Quinn during the third week of the semester.

This assignment is due at the beginning of class on September 11; make sure your mix is uploaded to 8tracks.com before class, bring your memo to class, and be ready to print your poster that day during a conference with Quinn.

Instructions for Uploading your Poster: Create a zipped file with all of your design files (name it "Full Name Mix Tape Poster.zip") and upload it using the link below.

Evaluation Criteria

Your mix tape will be evaluated based on how well:
  • the songs on the mix are arranged around a theme or tell a coherent story.
  • the poster employs the principles of visual design we have studied in class.
  • the memo explains and/or justifies the choices you’ve made in creating the mix.
  • the music, the poster, and the memo work together to create a unified whole.
  • the memo adheres to the conventions of standard written English (grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.).