Creative Direction for

Rico Nasty


Rico Nasty's Debut Album Cover
Designed by Jason Carman 

the world of


Nightmare Vacation.


From concept to cover art

Themes, tone, posing, and title styling were conceptualized through sketches after FaceTimes and studio sessions with Rico. After releasing a number of projects previously, her debut studio album mad her feel like she was starting over. 

Frustration, ecstasy, escapism, melancholy, and lucidity were some of the main words that we kept coming back to. Rico loved the idea of the sleep state, dreams, and how they impact our waking lives. 

Due to the title of the project there was an obvious theme of getting away on vacation. We decided it'd be best to talk about escaping in a philosophical sense, forcing ourselves to drive away from vacation-related imagery like palm trees and islands. After the vacation however, there's the dark side: the nightmare. 


The initial in studio sketch discussing the duality of having a nightmare vacation and the final pitch.

The raw photo shot in Maryland versus the final for-production cover. 


Decks & mood boards


With the theme and key messaging locked down we needed to create a way to translate Rico's ideas into a visual narrative that acts as a through-line. Whether it be the key art for a single, a billboard, or a magazine it needed to feel like "Nightmare Vacation Rico."

Over 250 slides were created across various decks related to all facets of Rico. Single covers, music videos, merchandise, social posts, clothing, makeup. Psychedelic and dreamy with a swirl of dark and horror were an overtone for the direction. The goal was to create a comprehensive look for Rico as she prepared to enter a new era as an artist.

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Something out of nothing


A lot of creative direction is about ideating imagery that has an emotional impact. Whether it's a big budget concept with storyboards, or carefully planned photo shoots, or a random photo taken on an iPhone, there's creative potential in everything.

The process of creating an idea is so exciting as there are a plethora of ways to do so. An idea can come from a business need, be apart of a larger creative goal, serve to tell a story, or simple exist for no reason at all.

With his creative direction, Jason seeks to implant deeper meaning and inspire emotional reaction from the audience. 


Nightmare Vacation.

Creating the 

visual world of

Nasty Island


One of the first visual ideas Rico loved was the idea of an island as it relates to vacations. Jason pitched her the idea of having her own island, Nasty Island. Picture a relatively small, tropical island that when viewed from above takes the shape of Rico's head. It's weather is chaotic, quickly changes, and is inhabited by noneother than Rico herself. 

Jason built the island in 3D complete with a procedural terrain system with wet sand, rocks, grass, trees, and even animal friends. The island features a large, rock, "NASTY" at its center.

An idea was developed to have people visit the island, below Trippie Redd is seen crash landing his rocket ship on the island.


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On the day of the album shoot Rico and Jason had the itch to shoot a music video, the only problem was that no one planned on shooting one. 

After some brainstorming the team landed on the idea of shooting a rough performance of Rico and then hand painting every frame, all 4080 of them.

Jason shot only 3 hand-held takes on the photo stage, directing Rico to over emphasize her movements as the frame rate would only be 14 fps.

Jason and Rico hand painted a couple hundred of the frames themselves after the shoot in Maryland. Jason and a small team worked on the rest of the painting in California. 

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The dark carnival

After a shoot for a different video, the team decided to shoot a snipper video for an upcoming song titled "STFU" off of the album. 

After shooting a lot of bright, serene, and meaningful imagery, the team wanted to take things in a darker direction. The duality of the album is this idea of light and dark, good and evil, the nightmare and the vacation, and it requires you to show the darker side of the spectrum too. 

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the pandemic's


first video.


A quick pivot


The desk where Jason edited Popstar and worked from for the duration of the pandemic.

In march of 2020 Jason and Rico were in Los Angeles working on the creative for Nightmare Vacation until the COVID-19 pandemic hit forcing Jason and Rico to return home.

Despite the complications, there was an album and it's pre-release singles to roll out! Rico called Jason with a crazy idea:

Let's make the first pandemic-made music video.

The goal became to shoot a music video for the fun and high energy song, "Popstar" within a couple of days fully remote. Remote as in on opposing sides of the country.

We arranged a remote shooting team and set to work on the creative concept...


Concept development


After a number of various FaceTime calls and text messages Rico and Jason landed on the following: clip art meets Joan Jett.

Ripped paper, bright colors, collages, sloppy handwriting, punk drawings, mouthes, pop culture, bubblegum, getting punched in the face. 

Rico felt strongly about her upcoming artistic evolution and heading more into the mainstream's gaze. Who is she and who is she becoming?


A pop star, rock star. 

The secret sauce to every project Jason works, whether a commercial, album cover, or music video is Pinterest. "There is no better 'related image' algorithm in existence," Jason shared in an interview related to the Popstar music video. 


From just a handful of images Jason curates a new and unique visual language for whatever project he's working on. In Popstar's case, it was the world of 90s punk rock and paper torn posters. 

Remote production

The stay-at-home order had a big impact on what we could achieve in camera: limited camera moves if any, lack of props & sets, and a completely DIY closet-diving approach to wardrobe and makeup. 

In preparation for production shot-lists, storyboards, and even a slightly terrifying 3D pre-vis to guide framing and posing.

Throughout the idea Jason FaceTimed in direct Rico's electrifying performance and wardrobe changes. Rico and team hand-built the green-screen for the video (right) to stay fully COVID-compliant. 

The lack of smooth lighting and seamless cyclorama presented keying issues that a less experience post team may have struggled with, thankfully Jason specializes in green-screening.


A VFX breakdown from the final music video. 

Marketing for the fan

Rico Nasty has a particularly loyal and interactive fanbase, for Popstar we wanted to create an activation around the hype surrounding the upcoming album announcement.

We created a fictitious newspaper "Nasty News" and quickly used it as an overlay effect in the music video. This was enough to generate a plethora of organic tweets, replies, and posts from fans allowing them to take ownership in the narrative of the release.


Release & reception

The single and video for "Popstar" was released days after its conception and weeks after the stay-at-home mandate. It garnered tens-of-thousands of interactions, was named one of the best music videos of 2020 by Paste Magazine and received praise from major publications.


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Watch the behind the scenes interview with Jason and Rico where they discuss the concept, execution as well as the "10 essential things every rapper has," it's quite the conversation.  

Crossing the finish line


The edit, start to finish, took exactly 1 business day. It was designed to be colorful, high impact, thoughtful, and above everything  fast. 

After a few minor tweaks just 2 days after the original shoot the final video was delivered for clearances and release. 

In addition to a final video, Rico asked Jason if he'd like to do the cover art for the song. Later that day 32 cover concepts were delivered for selection.

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25 of the originally delivered single cover art concepts.

Hover over edges of covers to see more

Success & streams!

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Despite the pandemic and the challenges of remote production the creative for Nightmare Vacation rolled out with a group of exciting music videos, album artworks, and social content. 

The project was met with great critical acclaim, earning a rare rating of 7.4 from Pitchfork. The album and its creative was met with excitement from Rico's fanbase. Lots of fan artwork, covers, and video edits were made. There was an overall love and acceptance of the project that felt gratifying and well earned by the whole team involved, especially Rico, seen reacting to an early video cut here. 

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