Melody Han You uses her art as a way of expressing her love for music and popular culture. Melody combines graphic design and content creation to visually represent music albums and EPs in the form of a receipt, with the track-lists being the “purchased items” and song lengths as “prices.” While most of these “receipts” reference current pop music albums and have earned her partnerships with MTV, Def Jam, and Interscope Records, she has also designed a few that reflect on larger societal issues and events, like voting. In our interview with her, she expresses her commitment to DE&I and her thoughts on how companies can be making progress – showing that inclusive leadership is a mindset that applies across industries and at all levels of a company.
Finish this sentence: I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for ________________.
My professors and mentors at Boston University. I never would have imagined that I would be able to create my own job by simply doing something that I’m passionate about. And I honestly don’t think I would have pursued something like Album Receipts had it not been for my extremely supportive network of professors and mentors that encouraged and stimulated my creative endeavors, no matter how intimidated I felt or how wacky/outlandish my ideas were. When my Instagram account went viral and I landed partnerships with MTV, Def Jam, and Interscope Records, one of the first people I told was my art direction professor because I had learned so much about the fundamentals of design from her and I always felt challenged to think creatively and outside-the-box through her class.
Resumes highlight professional and educational achievements. Which one of your life or personal experiences deserves to be on your resume?
I think a personal experience that I feel proud to highlight is how I have been able to do something creatively fulfilling with my time in lockdown/quarantine at home. I’m the type of person who loves to keep myself busy, so it was an absolute nightmare for me to come to terms with the fact that I was graduating college for good (and completely unemployed as well).
With that in mind, I knew that I needed to find a way to preoccupy my mind and do something productive and stimulating—and that’s when I landed on the idea of starting Album Receipts, which combines my passions for music and design. I started it the day that I graduated college and literally spent hours glued to my laptop screen, because I was determined to create hundreds of designs and launch them as a series on Instagram. Then, only a week later, I was at 20,000 followers and had gained recognition from Ariana Grande, Kacey Musgraves, and more, so it felt really reassuring and incredible to know that all my time and effort was being acknowledged (and it was also just extremely fun for me to do!)
“… reach out to people who inspire you and do cool things … when I was younger I was too intimidated to reach out to people that I idolized or admired … But as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned that it’s definitely worth shooting your shot, because you never know if they may respond or even eventually become a mentor for you.”
What’s one piece of career advice you wish you could give to your younger self?
To reach out to people who inspire you and do cool things. I feel like when I was younger I was too intimidated to reach out to people that I idolized or admired because I always assumed that they would be too busy to talk to someone like me. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned that it’s definitely worth shooting your shot, because you never know if they may respond or even eventually become a mentor for you, and you can learn tremendously from someone who is an expert in the field that you want to go into.
When Album Receipts started taking off on social media, I reached out to a ton of talented content creators and graphic designers that I looked up to and had a lot of respect for and it amazed me that most of them were more than willing to share their advice on how to navigate the world of freelancing and design with me.
I also started DMing my favorite artists or the labels that represent them and would straight-up tell them how much I would love to work with them or create something for them, and it blew my mind how much that worked out for me—I ended up working on album receipts for Aminé, LL Cool J, and most recently, Kid Cudi.
Which three books, podcasts, or new sources do you think everyone should read? Why?
For podcasts, I’m a huge fan of the Michelle Obama Podcast. She is such an inspiration to me and I especially enjoyed her episodes about working women and mentorship because it taught me how mentorship is a two-way street and how it’s a relationship where you both bring value to each other’s lives. It made me rethink my own relationships with my mentors, and how I’ve approached them.
I also love listening to OTHERtone with Pharrell, Scott, and Fam-Lay, because I find it so interesting hearing their interviews with so many inspiring leaders and visionaries in the fields of music, fashion, business, and tech, and how they got to where they are today.
NPR Invisibilia is also a great podcast—it’s all about psychology and human behavior, and many of its episodes discuss how there are many invisible factors that shape the way that we make assumptions, think, and behave.
Diversity, equity and inclusion is front and center right now. How do you express your commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in your personal and professional life?
I think that one of the biggest ways that I can express my commitment is by continuously educating myself on diversity issues and communicating with those around me in my personal and work life about diversity elements that they may not be knowledgeable about. A willingness to learn can go a long way. By first acknowledging the injustices that I have personally resonated with and experienced in my life, and then directing that focus on making an impact in those areas/spaces, I can help contribute to positive change.
What’s one tangible step every employer should take to help build a more representative organization?
I think that a huge step in the right direction is for employers to evaluate whether their own employees and executive teams actually represent a diverse and inclusive group or not. While it’s great that many companies nowadays express their support for diversity in the workspace, it isn’t meaningful unless individuals from diverse backgrounds and communities are promoted to positions in which they can make important decisions that impact all members of their organization and their consumers. Real change cannot be made in the workspace until the values and experiences of individuals from diverse backgrounds are honored in the company culture and the everyday decision making from these organizations.