Lofi beats — the music genre associated with chill and relaxing sounds that make you want to sit down and work on your tasks as its downtempo and chillhop beats play in the background. Aside from the nostalgic sounds connected with it, there is one iconic image with which everyone who knows lofi beats is familiar – the Lofi girl in practically every YouTube video and cover art.
The Origins of Lofi girl
Lofi girl, or the renowned face of the lofi music industry, has her origins from the character of Studio Ghibli’s Whisper of the Heart Shizuku Tsukishima, a Japanese schoolgirl who spends her free time writing and reading in her bedroom. Shizuku is known for penning the novel entitled Whisper of the Heart, and this sets the entire plot of the story. Lofi girl adopts the movie protagonist’s dedication to writing, as she is similarly seen to be writing on her notebook in the iconic lofi background, with scenic views and homey elements surrounding her.
But how did the Lofi girl come to be? As it turns out, the Lofi girl originated from ChilledCow. ChilledCow, one of the fastest growing channels where livestream lofi chill music is accessible, was created by Dimitri in February 2017. The channel then was looking for an image to represent them, and Dimitri selected a GIF of Shizuku with headphones on as the face of his livestream. As the chill beats with the GIF gained wide popularity, copyright concerns emerged. Left with no choice, ChilledCow decided to create a new image, and the Lofi girl as we know it first appeared in September 2017 when the channel put out a call for artists to create an image of “a student busy revising for her classes with Miyazaki-esque visuals”.
Juan Pablo Machado, a Colombian artist, answered the call with his work, and ever since, ChilledCow has started using his Lofi girl illustration in GIFs, cover arts, and background images for their popular lofi live stream and lofi music on YouTube.
Eventually, Lofi girl became incredibly famous, and she became a symbol with whom viewers and listeners could identify and connect with people all over the world. With ChilledCow’s continuing growth, the Lofi girl expanded to being shown in action figures, fan arts, and even works that contextualize the Lofi girl within different places around the world.
The Evolution of Lofi girl
Lofi girl first appeared in ChilledCow’s “Beats to Relax/Study To” in 2017, and was updated as an animation with slight design differences in November of the same year. The day theme was subsequently added around March 2018, with buildings shown through the window and the Lofi girl flipping through and writing on her notebook.
In December, winter day and night themes were added to fit with the cold season, with snow seen to be falling outside from the window. A day to night theme of the original background was then added to fit the audience’s ever-changing and ever-varying tastes and moods. In March 2021, ChilledCow released a Lofi girl plush toy, and the Lofi girl’s headphones were remodelled and updated.
Lofi girl’s Instagram account shows the animated clips of these in their Instagram post.
Lofi girl Contextualized
Since Pablo Machado’s creation of Lofi Girl for ChilledCow’s popular Lo-fi Hip-Hop Study Mix, the “Study Girl” has spawned countless modifications throughout the web, from gaming references and anime to pop culture and reimaginings from different nations. We picked our top six versions.
Never imagined how relaxing lofi chill music can be illustrated through the ginormous, destructive, and infamous Godzilla? ChilledCow’s Lofi girl icon bridges the artistry of the music and the film through this fanart by @gagehdesigns, in which Godzilla is peacefully listening to some lofi hip-hop beats while other iconic figures and scenes from the film surround the sea monster. Lofi aesthetic takes on a different form as the normal pastels and dream-like elements are completely replaced by darks and contrasts in this fan art.
Genshin Impact, one of the most popular and played games of 2020, is also shown to replicate the Lofi girl through the video game character Klee. The adventure-driven character sits peacefully on her Klee-themed chair as she writes on her notebook.
The Lofi girl rendition by @torasshuu stays true to the game’s visuals, as other notable figures and themes such as the hilichurls, primogems, treasure chest, and Dodoco are evident in the fanart. Lofi aesthetic’s warm and homey settings are clear in this art, and with the adorable Klee taking on the Lofi girl, who wouldn’t find this masterpiece irresistible?
A fan of both lofi beats and Star Wars, @venamis, illustrated both worlds through this awe-striking art. Darth Vader is sketching Padmé Amidala while his R2-D2 lampshade is on and Yoda is staring at him. This Star Wars lofi combination completely deviates from the normal themes of the lofi aesthetic, as the usual retro and warm elements are replaced with futuristic and chill vibes that, ultimately, still give us the same nostalgic and familiar sentiment.
Lofi girl takes on Korea during the Josean Era as the art by @sujeongsshi exemplifies Ink wash painting, or “Sumukhawa”, which has a heavy influence on traditional Korean painting. The Lofi girl is wearing a Korean hanbok while working on a painting, and the iconic cat is sitting on the window as she works on her piece. Truly, this beautiful art exhibits how the Lofi girl can be bought anywhere and anytime in the world!
The Lofi girl is also contextualized in Taiwan as a Taiwanese girl wearing traditional clothes is seen to be painting flowers on her vintage stationery. This artsy craft by @ameily_with_an_a truly depicts the richness of the country’s culture, as various unique buildings are sketched in the background and other lantern lights are dangling inside the girl’s room. Lofi girl and rich culture all in one artwork? Sounds great and engaging!
Finally, this art by @piropino.ig showcases the tropical side of the Philippines, as the Lofi girl wears shades and sando as she works on her notebook. The popular fast-food chain Jollibee is also seen from the paper cup near the window. The sunny beach, plants, magnets, and prism wind chimes complement the chill and relaxing vibe from lofi hip-hop beats, as well. Definitely, the soft and comforting scenery of this art complements the lofi jazz and hip-hop beats playing through your earphones.
Now that we’ve glimpsed how the Lofi girl started and how it is being drawn to different sets of cultures and works of fiction, we can see how lofi can bring us to places we’ve never gone to and consequently draw people of different backgrounds together. To lofi hip-hop music and the Lofi girl, from us the audience, we can only ask… Where to next?