I’ve been designing album artwork for longer than I’ve been a “real” designer, starting with my own teenage bands. Over the years these projects have become a playground for experimentation: for including more handmade elements than I often get to include in other client work, for exploring new materials and processes, for trusting concepts that feel more intuitive and emotionally expressive. Here are a few recent favorites.
Sonically forward-thinking but suffused with nostalgia, Fulton Lights’ latest album seemed to call out for art that subtly referenced the ’80s childhood the band and I share. I found an old Spirograph and created a toolkit of patterns, then arranged my favorites (often the ones with interesting imperfections) into a grid like pinned specimens. Like the album’s songs, the patterns feel part of a collection, though each is different from the next.
Austerity is my most recent album of my own music. It’s a digital-only release, but it was important to me that the artwork be created by hand in the real world, echoing the process of the recordings: Just like the music—which was built and layered from edits of my own improvisations—the art was made using collaged material, matched together by intuition.
Underlined Passages is an indie-rock duo from Maryland. For the vinyl version of their new LP, they wanted a special package that was different from their CD artwork. We decided to take advantage of the larger format by letting the bold colors, oversized type, and endearing band photos (by Ramiro Hird) be the stars. The album comes with a lyric-sheet insert that doubles as a foldout poster.
On Cicatriz, songwriter A.Spencer deals lyrically with the worldwide upheavals of 2016. My concept for the cover art was to allude to the impact of those moments by filling the space entirely with giant type, like a vintage newspaper headline. The letterforms are based on a particular style of condensed type in this vein, but I drew them from scratch so I could get it all to lock up exactly how I wanted, by controlling the width and stroke weight more precisely.
The type was then printed and “roughened” manually (using a photocopier and physical manipulation of the paper) before being colored digitally—the uncomfortable color combination feeling to me like a sort of funhouse version of the news. The lyrics and credits carry the concept to its logical conclusion: They’re printed as newspaper stories, in narrow justified columns.
This was a limited-edition CD that we screenprinted by hand — The idea was to create a type-only solution that could be screenprinted in one color. I created the distorted type by manipulating a printout on a photocopier, then printed the results in silver ink on black paperboard sleeves.