The second installment of our regular Sound and Vision feature has arrived! In these posts we’re going to be dissecting some classic album covers as well as offering up actual tunes to listen to – something that can often be overlooked when discussing graphic design for music.
Music is a massively important aspect of our work and working environment. Like many designers, it’s a big part of the reason we wanted to become designers in the first place. This series aims to feature some of our favourite covers and the songs which feature within the albums. All of which are on constant rotation in the Mat Dolphin daily playlist. So, without further ado, click below to read (and hear) plenty more of the same.
Beastie Boys – The New Style (Licensed To Ill)
An illustration of the tail of a Boeing 727 emblazoned with the Beastie Boys logo and the code ’3MTA3′ is the basis for the cover art of Licensed To Ill, the 1986 debut by the Beastie Boys. The originally slated title of ‘Don’t Be A Faggot’ was instantly (and understandably) refused by the record label and their manager Rick Rubin had to convince the band to come up with a more appropriate name.
The controversial cover opens out to reveal the front section of the plane ploughed into the side of a mountain. Rubin apparently claims “it was inspired by stories about Led Zeppelin’s private jet, the grandiosity of rock decadence, in the form of a private plane being smashed. That, and extreme excess turning into extreme violence.” A fair explanation, although there have been comments about the phallic connotations within the artwork. Social commentary or simply a knob-gag, the sleeve is nothing if not impactful. The designer responsible, Steve Byram, has been keen to distance himself from the artwork and prefers to focus on his work for Screwgun, the label he co-founded.
The album is a certified classic and was summed up nicely by the headline of a Rolling Stone review stating ‘Three Idiots Create A Masterpiece’
And by the way, if you want to know what ’3MTA3′ means, look at it in a mirror…
Massive Attack – Teardrop (Mezzanine)
Mezzanine is the third studio album from Massive Attack and a distinct departure from their earlier sound. Heavily employing the use of samples, the band produced a dark and brooding collection of songs which invoke a darker, moodier undercurrent than their previous work. This feeling was perfectly captured by Tom Hingston studio, an agency who have designed covers for a number of classic albums from brilliant artists, as well as working with Robbie Williams.
The extreme close up of the menacing black beetle (which is actually a metallic sculpture) was shot by the amazing photographer and Hingston collaborator, Nick Knight. Commenting on the cover, he said “The band’s collective philosophy was born out of hip-hop and club culture. 3D, a former graffiti artist, was looking for a different way to work. He came up with themes and words applicable to the project, so that designer, photographer and band could push and pull each other in different directions until we were in a place we were all happy with.”
As dark and delicate as the music within, a great image which brilliantly captures the mood and tone of the music.
Rolling Stones – Under My Thumb (Rolled Gold +)
Rolled Gold is one of the many Rolling Stones Greatest Hits colections and the fact it was released over 30 years ago goes to show how long they’ve been banging out the classics. In the case of this album, however, whilst the music was amazing, the cover wasn’t much to write home about. When the time came to release a re-mastered version (Rolled Gold +), the old sleeve was discarded in favour of a new design, art directed by Zip Design, who employed the talents of the brilliant Alex Trochut to create one of his signature typographic illustrations. Beautiful, intricate and decadent, the songs finally have the visual accompaniment they deserve.
Thom Yorke – Black Swan (The Eraser)
Dan Rickwood is better known as Stanley Donwood. He is the artist and designer best known for is long time collaborative relationship with Radiohead, a relationship which extended to working with Thom Yorke on his solo album, The Eraser. The cover for the album showed a medieval visual of an imagined apocolypse in the streets of London. This image started life as London Views, a piece Stanley started working on in 2005 and was not originally intended for use as the album cover. The process for creating the original piece was hugely labour intensive, carving the image onto 14 individual pieces of linoleum with a small cutting tool. This 12-foot long image was then hand burnished onto Japanese Kozo paper as an edition of 8 artworks only.
The sprawing, epic artwork was subsequently turned into the cover for Yorke’s debut and folds out to reveal the image as a whole. As with all of the Donwood / Radiohead collaborations, a brilliant marriage of creativity and beauty.
Hot Chip – And I Was A Boy From School (The Warning)
Apparently in an effort to convey the colliding genres and inspirations which inspired their second album, The Warning, Hot Chip and Darren Wall (AKA Wallzo) created illustrations featuring “childrens building blocks which have been split with a chisel. We then forced coloured plastic wedges into the splits”. The bright, colourful images are playful, beautiful and weird in equal measure. Using these objects as the basis for a huge number of album and single covers, the band and Wallzo created a brilliantly unique and instantly recognisable identity.
See below for various single and special edition versions.
So there you have it! More visual and audio treats from our record box. We hope you enjoyed what you heard and found some of our ramblings vaguely interesting. Plenty more to come in the series soon.
Thanks for reading, and as ever let us know your thoughts.