Spotify’s Wrapped 2021 is everywhere. Here's how a former Sioux Falls resident helped create the graphics

·3 min read
Example of Spotify Wrapped design inspired by Kiel Mutschelknaus's Space Type Generator tool.
Example of Spotify Wrapped design inspired by Kiel Mutschelknaus's Space Type Generator tool.

A man originally from the Sioux Falls area and now living on the East Coast had a hand in inspiring and creating the graphics used in the international Spotify Wrapped campaign this year.

Kiel Mutschelknaus, who is from Brandon and an alumnus of Augustana University, helped with the motion graphics that snaked across the Wrapped reveals this year. The design is inspired by an online design tool Mutschelknaus built years ago.

The campaign, a viral marketing campaign by the international music streaming company released each December, allows Spotify users to view a compilation of data about their activity on the platform over the last year and is widely shared on social media over the following weeks.

Kiel Mutschelknaus is originally from Brandon and graduated from Augustana College before moving to the East Coast. He is now a graphic design professor at the Maryland Institute of Art in Baltimore.
Kiel Mutschelknaus is originally from Brandon and graduated from Augustana College before moving to the East Coast. He is now a graphic design professor at the Maryland Institute of Art in Baltimore.

It's one of the biggest design projects the 36-year-old professor at the Maryland Institute of Art in Baltimore has worked on as a freelance designer.

"It's been super satisfying to see it everywhere," Mutschelknaus said. "While I didn't make the image everyone sees, I had something to do with it and my work was at the heart of it. To see something related to my work pop up to millions of people is a sublime experience."

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Mutschelknaus left South Dakota in 2010 after working at Fresh Produce in Sioux Falls to pursue his graduate studies in 2-D Design at the Cranbrook Academy of Art near Detroit and moved to the East Coast shortly after with his wife. He now teaches graphic design with a focus on generative and motion work.

To become a better instructor and designer, Mutschelknaus taught himself coding and created an online motion and type generator tool fellow designers can use to make motion graphics. He's gained acclaim for the open source application, Space Type Generator, which has inspired projects across the globe including music videos, editorial illustrations, murals, and magazine covers.

Example of SpaceTypeGenerator v.String with the “Eels & wind” preset.
Example of SpaceTypeGenerator v.String with the “Eels & wind” preset.

Most recently and notably, Spotify designers approached him about his tool and asked for his input on Spotify Wrapped.

The campaign is a four-month project at Spotify where Mutschelknaus conducted research and design and gave input on the creation of Spotify's own motion and type generator tool.

"This started as something on the side for myself and was just hundreds of hours of my own self promotion and self initiated work," Mutschelknaus said. "To see some of that work pay off and come around again is exciting."

Spotify Wrapped billboard design inspired by Kiel Mutschelknaus's Space Type Generator tool.
Spotify Wrapped billboard design inspired by Kiel Mutschelknaus's Space Type Generator tool.

In addition to Spotify Wrapped, he's created work for the New York Times and Apple. He recently wrapped up a project with Nike, which is still yet to be released to the public. He was on sabbatical last year and has been working part-time freelance work throughout the pandemic.

Mutschelknaus plans to continue teaching himself coding and honing his skills in the developing world of motion graphics, which Mutschelknaus considers one of the most exciting emerging design platforms.

"It'd be a disservice to myself and my students if I wasn't pushing myself and doing this research," he added.

This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Spotify's 2021 Wrapped graphics designed in part by former SD resident