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Saturday, September 06, 2008

What happened to sleeve design?

In years to come, when travelers from Mars pick through the debris of our shattered society, one of the questions somebody is bound to ask is, why did rock bands allow the covers of their CDs to be designed by people who didn't seem to understand the first thing about the principles of the packaged goods business? I noticed these four pre-releases on my desk just now and they set me thinking.
  • Let's start with the top left. If a CD becomes separated from its case, how the bloody hell do you identify it? Would a company selling DVDs allow you to do that? No. And why not? Because it would be profoundly irritating for their customers. Which it is.
  • Top right. One of the jobs of design is to maximise the chances of a little casual purchase by providing people with an element that they can get some kind of purchase on. Here you've got a band name that provides no clue and an album title that tries your patience. In this context if you then expect people to be intrigued by your conceptual gag as well then, well, you have a lot to learn.
  • Bottom right. Go and look at the books in Borders. What's the first principle of book jacket design? That you be able to make out the name of the book and its author. Now, can you read this? It was eventually identified by somebody holding it in front of me and telling me its name. Call me old fashioned. This shouldn't be necessary.
  • Bottom left. If you're a former member of Captain Beefheart's Magic Band then you should know that the marketplace is infinitely more crowded than it used to be and it's no longer tolerant of the occasional injection of the grotesque. Somebody has to reach for this in the rack and take it to the till. They are more likely to do that if they don't find the image on the cover repellent.