the Vinyl Frontier

For this project we re-designed an album cover. I chose floodland by the sisters of mercy as this has been one of my favourite albums

INITIAL IDEAS

For this project, I have to create a gatefold album cover. I have chosen the Sisters of Mercy ‘Floodland’ album. When mind mapping this idea and listening to the songs I felt that the drum machine sounded like a train. I further developed this idea into industrial machinery which fits with the gothic feel of the album. Ideally, I would like to merge the idea of machines and lakes/ floodplains. I feel this would be interesting as nature and machines juxtapose but both apply to the Floodland album. So far I have taken pictures of chains in petrol which I think will go on the cover. To further develop this idea I need to incorporate the nature element. Furthermore, I want to experiment with textures that appear on old/rusty metal. I felt that a bold type was important for this album as the songs are very loud and strong sounding. Furthermore, it shows the idea of strength that trains/ machines have.

image taken with a photo-graphy student

THE CRITIQUE
For my final design, I chose to show the contrast between the natural interpretation of the title ‘flood land’ and the mechanical sound of the drum machine. I think I have achieved this using an abstract photograph of a lake and the chains inside the album. In addition, the inner sleeve is made of copper and using dye-sublimation with a graphic of a river.

I felt that my album cover needed to avoid the stereotypical 80’s trad goth’ aesthetic that is associated with Sisters of Mercy.  This is why I chose blues and reds whilst avoiding completely black backgrounds and sans serif typefaces. Using a bold serif font represents the strength and power of the machinery. It also creates a more striking visual.

From the feedback I believe my album was overall a success, my peers liked the originality and creativity of my design. However, some corrections are needed to complete the album. The red graphic on the front crowds the cover and removes the surprise of the contrasting photograph inside. It was also suggested that I think of other ways to show the inner photo, for example making the image duotone or black and white. I also need to decide what stock I should use to print the album with as the paper in a regular printer doesn’t create the finish of a professionally made cover. the copper inner sleeve doesn’t feel like it is a part of the album due to the colour not matching. Despite this, I like the effect of using actual metal as it feels distinctive. An alternative could be to use the copper on the front and back of the album and the lake photograph inside. This would still show the juxtaposition between the title and sound of the music.

The back cover could be slightly improved, I could change the shades of white slightly on the tracklist so it can be made more complex. This would be engaging for the audience as it would be like a puzzle to be solved. I will also make the barcode more realistic as it doesn’t look professional. The red text at the bottom goes too far along the cover. It needs to be more discreet.

I have decided to remove the red graphic from the front of the album and make the image inside brighter. I am going to print the album on higher quality paper as it will make the colours more vibrant. Furthermore, I would like the inner sleeve to still be made using dye-sublimation but on aluminum. This will fit the colour palette of the album effectively and make it feel more like one piece. Also, the aluminum won’t have all the creases and scratches that are on the copper so the graphic will look cleaner and professionally done.

On reflection, I feel that I take on advice without considering that my opinions may work out to be more effective. It was a lecturer opinion that I should remove the graphic on the front cover. This would strengthen the juxtaposition concept. However, I feel that the red on the cover creates a striking image. On one hand, I am aware that I shouldn’t just keep the red graphic because I spent a long time on it, but if I experiment with it further I could make it work as a front cover. I have struggled to argue that my choices may be better as I am aware that I have very little graphic design experience, whilst my lecturers and peers have been doing graphics for longer. Due to this, I am going to experiment with the cover including and excluding the red so I can decide which would be most effective.

JONATHAN BARNBROOK

The most interesting part of researching for this project was looking at Jonathan Barnbrook’s album cover for the Blackstar album by Bowie. This album has so much importance as it was Bowie’s last album which was released two days after his death on his birthday. The album cover denotes a black album with a large black star and five smaller stars at the bottom of the album. The five stars represent the letters ‘Bowie’. Whilst the design appears simplistic there are connotations behind the graphics used. This is the only Bowie cover without the artist on the front and is filled with secrets and metaphors relating to his death. The star on the cover is cut out revealing the record. Therefore, the record isn’t very protected and could be a metaphor for the fragility that Bowie was feeling. Furthermore, the term ‘blackstar lesion’ is a term used by doctors and this lesion is evidence that an individual may have cancer. Bowie suffered from liver cancer and this may have been one of the reasons behind the album title. When put in front of a light the inside of the cover reveals a star-filled sky is revealed. This has links to space-related songs like ‘starman’ or the Ziggy Stardust alter ego.

Research into this Barnbrook’s album design inspired me to try and show deeper meanings on my album cover. Therefore, I chose to use chains and metal on the inside of the cover. This links to the sound of the drum machine that is used frequently in the Foodland album. This is also why I used imagery of trains and industrial machines in my developments. If I hadn’t researched Barnbrook’s work, I probably wouldn’t have created such a strong concept. In future projects, I will research other designers or artists so that I know how other people have expressed ideas. And how this can improve my own projects.

When making the corrections from the critique I removed the red illustration from the front and made the blue more vibrant. I also used aluminum instead of copper for the inner sleeve and made the river black instead of the background. I find this more effective as it fits the colour scheme of the album better.

Whilst I enjoyed the album designing process and I found the dye-sublimation of the inner sleeve interesting, I struggled with the construction of the album. I have found from this first semester that my biggest weakness is that I am not very tidy. I don’t tend to notice if things are not cut out straight or other small details. This is what I need to improve for next semester. I think being a perfectionist is important in graphic design so that the final piece is at the best possible standard. From this project, I have realized that the smallest details can be the most important as they can ruin a piece of work. Therefore in future projects, I am going to put much more focus on this aspect of my work.

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