Illustration course leader revealed as artist behind smash-hit true crime podcast

Roderick Mills, course leader for BA(Hons) Illustration has been revealed as the artist behind the original artwork for the latest hit podcast from The New York Times, ‘The Coldest Case in Laramie’.

Roderick has s lent his artistic expertise to create stunning visuals that capture the essence of the gripping true crime story that has captivated audiences around the world.

In The Coldest Case in Laramie, Kim Barker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, goes back to her hometown of Laramie, Wyoming, which she describes as “a mean town. Uncommonly mean. A place of jagged edges and cold people.” There, she investigates the unsolved murder of a 22-year-old University of Wyoming student, Shelli Wiley.

The podcast comes from Serial Productions, the company created off the back of the mega-successful true-crime podcast Serial, and which is now owned by the New York Times. Roderick was approached by the producers in 2022 to create artwork that would set the tone for the podcast and capture its essence. His artwork features prominently in the podcast, including on the cover art and social media promotions.

Roderick is course leader for Illustration at the University of Brighton, where his undergraduate teaching focuses on creative play and experimentation to help students discover their authentic visual voice. Whilst the course is the second oldest Illustration course in the UK, it is known for being experimental and to help support students in finding the potential in their work – and to explore what illustration and illustrators can be in the future.

“Creating artwork for ‘The Coldest Case in Laramie’ was an incredible opportunity,” said Roderick. “As a fan of true crime podcasts, it was a chance to work on a project that combines my love of art and storytelling. The podcast is a fascinating exploration of a decades-old crime, and I wanted to create artwork that would reflect the complexity and darkness of the story.”

“I was very lucky to be trusted by the New York Times team to come up with the visual identity for the series, to be given the freedom to try something new and to be experimental. The project came at an appropriate time for the final year illustration students for me to share the process of making work, of visual storytelling for a nonprint platform, and liaising with investigative journalists. I even used one of the photocopiers in the university studio to help process the initial drawings, creating a sense of distance to the work by picking up the patina of the glass top.”

Roderick’s artwork has been widely praised by fans and critics, with many commenting on its striking visual impact and how it perfectly captures the haunting atmosphere of the podcast.

Kelly Doe, Head of Brand Identity at the New York Times, said: “We worked with Roderick on an identity for the recent launch of Laramie, a New York Times/Serial podcast. We needed a suite of images — a hero to represent the show and episodic art to accompany it. We hoped the artwork could reflect the ephemeral nature of memory on a long un-resolved murder case, and take care to respect the family, friends and suspects who shared in the story.

“Roderick was a patient, inspired and wonderfully responsive collaborator. We ended up with a powerful, moody hero image and episodic series that was shaped by his ability to take the literal and weave in a depth of emotion by his controlled use of colour, layering and abstraction. We look forward to working with Roderick again soon.”

Kim Barker, New York Times investigative reporter, added a much more succinct: “Thank you, Roderick. The art is fantastic!”

‘The Coldest Case in Laramie’ is now available on all major podcast platforms, accompanied by Roderick Mills’ original artwork. With its combination of engaging storytelling and stunning visuals, the podcast is already a fan favourite across the globe.


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