April 22, 2006
see this needle... see my hand...
drop, drop, dropping it down...oh, so gently...
well here it comes...i touch the plane...
turn me up...won't turn you away...
Pearl Jam, "Spin the Black Circle"
Those of us around when vinyl was king still hold sentimental feelings for the LP record format and the cover designs that put a creative 'face' on the music. The Eisner Museum of Advertising and Design's website has a cool, interactive feature that breaks down some landmark album covers of the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. Drop the needle on a track and get the backstory of the role graphic design has played in recorded music during that decade.
The story begins with the 'original' album cover designer Alex Steinweiss who created the first artistic packaging for LP records back in 1939. Before his suggestion and designs, record albums had a plain cardboard cover with just the title and artist name. He convinced Columbia Records to use the cover as a canvas that could convey the beauty and sentiment of the music inside.
The story ends with the 70s, which makes sense. The compact disc was introduced in 1982, ushering the end of vinyl and cassettes as the formats of choice.
A must see for any music and art history buff, check out The Art of the Album Cover.
April 15, 2006
The link below leads to a great article by Ricardo Baca, the Denver Post Pop Music Critic, who discusses the transition of album cover art from LP jackets to CD jewel cases to the still evolving digital realm - shrinking in size all the while, but also offering new design opportunities for the album cover designer that can adapt.
The article has reflections by:
Josh Rosenfeld, co-founder of Seattle indie label Barsuk Records
Jeff Kleinsmith, art director at Sub Pop Records
Mark Ohe, art director at Matador Records
Check out the article here: Can you see the music?Posted by Rico | Permalink
April 05, 2006
A new kind of digital liner notes for music albums is popping up at the iTunes music store. Created by TuneBooks, as of this writing there are only two releases available with their new interactive booklet format, The Darkness's One Way Ticket to Hell... and Back, and The Click Five's EP release, Catch Your Wave.
This is the newest step in the evolution of album cover design. The previous 'step', and still the most prevalent, is the so called "digital booklet", which is nothing more than a PDF file of the CD packaging design. I suppose it's nice to be able to print the insert and traycard on a home printer, cut them out and assemble your own jewel case – but it's hardly an evolutionary step. More like a step back in my opinion.
Tunebooks uses the Quicktime movie format (.mov), which has far more capabilities than most people are aware of: animated transitions, sprites, links, scrolling text, optical effects... they are all possible with the correct authoring environment. The Tunebook created for One Way Ticket to Hell... and Back uses all these features. Check out a rough movie screen capture here (4MB Quicktime mp4).
-Brings the popular things from print publishing design into a digital format (liner notes, lyrics, photos)
-Gives artists and labels direct link opportunities for band websites, additional content and merchandising (photos, posters, ringtones, t-shirts, PC games, etc)
-One click for tour information, band blogs, mailing lists and other communication with fans
-Richer media content (animations, video)
-Labels have opportunity to revive back catalog sales through videos and extras, similar to that of DVD bonus features
-Non-tactile: no feel, no factory-fresh smell
-Less exciting than opening and checking out print packaging design
-Poor integration with iTunes, it appears too small
-Without iTunes, you must view with Quicktime player on a computer
-No iPod integration
-Will it still work in 20 years?
There's certainly no stopping the digital revolution in music and entertainment. Given the prevalence of software that finds and embeds album cover art in digital music files, there seems to be no danger of music album releases losing their visual art component. Only time will tell whether TuneBooks become a new standard, or just a blip on the ever-changing radar.Posted by Rico | Permalink | Comments (2)