I started to work on music-related things in 1996 or 1997; the first actual package designs are from 1998 I believe. Tarwater’s “Silur” album was one of the first cover artworks I made, that one’s from summer 1998.
very few -- I’m working on a catalogue for a photo artist right now, but apart from that there’s not much that isn’t about music … in January this year I did another very small catalogue and before that some screen typography for a video installation. That’s about it – everything else was record covers and such. I guess it’s like that for most designers, once you’re into a particular field of work you don’t really get out of it anymore.
Sometimes the label, sometimes the artist/s, sometimes both. There is no general rule for that, it really depends on the project.
This also depends on the project. The album cover for bernadette la hengst for example, and particularly the map for the album, was a very “concept-oriented” piece of work so we discussed things quite a lot – also because we started from scratch, not even the music was really finished when we started to work on the map and the cover. On other occasions I’m working pretty much on my own: the artists often already have a photo or a picture that they want to use, like Richard Davis did for his “Details” album for example, so there’s not really a need for such a close collaboration. I listen to the music and look at the picture and then I take it from there.
I don’t often work with photographers or illustrators directly, quite frequently it’s the band or the label who picks a photo or an illustration and pass it on to me. So I often don’t meet the authors at all, let alone make friends with them.
This is different every time. It can be anything, the music or the title or the concept or the lyrics or none of those or all of those. For instance, the cover artwork for Folie’s “Eyepennies” album is almost entirely based on the title and – perhaps more importantly – on the fact that it’s dedicated to a two-year-old child. I was trying to figure out what “Eyepennies” meant, and when I asked Stefan (the artist) he said I shouldn’t think about the title too much since the main influence and inspiration is actually his daughter, that’s why he dedicated the album to her, and that’s what’s important. So I thought perhaps an eyepenny is something specific in the world of a little child – like a button for example, that’s small and round like a penny, and it has eyes. That’s why I put those buttons on the cover.
So in this case there’s no direct connection to the music, although I do think it fits quite well – the album does sound a little childish and playful, and somewhat bizarre, and for an electronic music album I guess the artwork is a little bizarre as well.
I don’t collect anything. I’m more happy to get rid of things than to keep them. I do have records of course, but I don’t feel like that’s a collection … they sort of collected themselves, so to speak. They just piled up.
I guess it’s a practical solution once you get used to it. To me, obviously, the cover is an important part of any album, but for others the advantages of digital distribution may outweigh that aspect, which is fine with me. I certainly don’t think that design, let alone good design, is in any danger because of that.
That would be a quite expensive hobby I suppose. If there’s two albums that I like and I have to choose one of them, I’m sure I’d pick the one with the better artwork, but I wouldn’t buy just the cover itself.
Not only one – there’s a lot of artists that I’d love to work for, mostly in the minimal / experimental / “new classics” department. Many of their albums already have very good sleeves though, so I wouldn’t change a thing about that.
If you want a specific example, there’s one 12” by Mika Vainio – I believe it’s the Atomit (Niels Bohr remix) EP – which is one of my favourite records of all time in one of my most un-favourite sleeves of all time … I wish I, or anyone else for that matter, could have done that one differently. The record itself is beautiful actually – it doesn’t have labels, it’s just a piece of black vinyl, which I think is very appropriate for this kind of stuff –, but the sleeve is totally over-decorated in my eyes.
I don’t have a “real” education, on paper I mean; I quit school and then I started to work. I guess “education” works differently for different people – some like to figure things out on their own, others get along better within the structure of a university or some other institution, so there’s probably no simple yes/no answer that would apply to everyone.
But in general I don’t think that an institutionalized education is necessary for designers in the same way that it’s necessary for dentists or architects or translators – a lot of good designers never studied design, and a lot of design students end up doing something completely different later on, so I don’t really see a connection there.
Of course it makes a difference whether you work for a small project or for a big institution – the more people there are involved, the more disorganized the whole thing usually becomes and the harder it is to find anyone who’s able to make a decision. I guess that’s inevitable. I’m not the best person to ask, though; most of the work I do is for labels that are even smaller than kitty-yo, or for individual artists and bands, and not for majors. I only work for bigger labels occasionally and that’s mostly licenses or re-releases where the actual design work is already done.
As for “bigger names”, I’m not sure who you’d count as “big” … in terms of sales I guess Maximilian Hecker is one of my “bigger” clients (but I don’t really know), and he’s absolutely not one of the inflated ego artist types that you’re perhaps having in mind. Quite the opposite. He’s one of my favourite clients in fact – I’ve been working with him for a couple of years now and it has always been very straightforward and very uncomplicated.
The aforementioned catalogue – it’s about photo installations by the Italian artist Lorenza Lucchi Basili; we’re almost done with it so I hope it will go to print at about the same time as this magazine. Then there’s some marketing things for Folie – a flyer and a poster and such – as well as for Bernadette La Hengst, a 12” and CD/LP for Jahcoozi (a new signing on Kitty-Yo), and I got invited to do an installation at a small cross-media festival in Italy that I need to prepare … they also want me to do a lecture while I’m there, it’s not really confirmed yet but I hope it works out.
I’m on a little island in Sweden right now and I quite enjoy the silence here I must say.