Having studied Graphic Design at University, it is in my psyche to look at the design of anything that I pass, hold or read. It can be a weird thing to the people who maybe don’t have that same feeling about the subject. It maybe singles me out as a geek on the subject. I will walk down a road and start shouting out names of typefaces, and whether the Kerning is right on the typography presented in front of me. I know it can be really boring to the people who have been in the same area. It’s lucky that I mainly do this with friends who have studied the same subject.
The example that caught my attention for this blog was a CD case. It wasn’t the conventional plastic case with a small 12x12cm book in the front; it’s made of cardboard. The album in question is the newest release from Of Monsters and Men — Beneath the Skin. (It might not be your cup of tea but bear with me its not just about the music!) I personally like them. They are from Keflavík, Iceland and they can be best described as an indie folk/pop band. The music they produce has a lot of connotations and links to nature, with them singing about animals and the natural world. This has given them a large part of their image and has neatly been addressed in the design of the album and the graphics surrounding it.
There were two main things I started to question and critique when I opened up the CD for the first time. The material used for the case of the CD and the graphics of the whole item.
Designed by Australian Graphic Designer Leif Podhajsky, he has worked for a mixture of different clients. With bands, art galleries and Nike all having his work grace their campaigns and public image.
Check out some more of his work here: Leif Podhajsky
The case is made from carton board, similar to cereal box packaging but slightly thicker. A number of albums have used this as a case, although my thoughts go back to the CD’s I used get free from newspapers and magazines. I suppose this has more production value. The feeling that it has been handmade is maybe one factor that can be cited for the music industry to have their products in a more tactile material, compared to the mass produced, cheap feeling plastic cases. One of the main things in the 21st century for designers to consider is the the environmental impact of using the plastic cases. This must be a consideration in the distribution music.
The material of the case also got me thinking about CD’s and the value of the design of a physical item over and above a digital downloads. The experience is completely different between what the two do for the people who interact with them. The CD is all about the physicality of using the CD, and the case that is surrounding the CD, where as downloads and digital files have a completely different experience in mind. They aim to give that experience by using a Digital LP booklet.
Recently vinyl’s have been making a comeback. With young adults and twenty somethings now collecting them both from the classic bands from the past and up and coming ones as well. The vinyl was all about the experience, the sound and the tactile nature of the cover. They complete feeling of experience is one that is being used again by bands, as well as being more about the collectability of their albums. They aim to make their fans want to buy more from them with the deluxe versions and collectors editions.
Beneath the Skin – Design
The design of the case is built from its use of a diecut for its cover, allowing the booklets inside to show through the logo of the band. It was something I first noticed really. The simplicity of the design has a feeling of multi purpose, it a a lateral example of the title of the album, Beneath the Skin, it gets the viewer to go under the skin of the case and explore more.
Photographically the whole of the case focuses on the use of geography and geology. A subject that can be suited to the title of the album, but also suits the way that the band have used a lot of imagery within their songs about nature and animals. I really feel it aims to add a dimension to the design in a different way to the case. It is also suitable to the band as they come from Iceland, they have a lot of mountain range and area that would be seen in their home land and this is something that adds even more to the layers of the design.
Each song has it’s own symbol, the style of the symbols is one that has been on trend over the past few years. The use of geometry and the shapes to create symbols for the songs. They may not have a direct link to the songs themselves but they give the feeling of the songs having an identity. The simple, thin lined symbols are very on trend with the indie culture and they are used a lot to show the natural world, within surfing and also within the skating scene with brands such as elements using a simply lined logo.
I spoke about the lyrics being inspired by nature and exploring the way that they have also helped the imagery of the album, and the case. I really feel that it helps to make the CD much more than it would be expected of a plastic case.
The album has been nominated for a grammy under the Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package for the deluxe box set. Sadly they didn’t win but personally I thought the case still made me think about how music is distributed in this modern digital age.
On the whole, as a piece of design for a CD case they have harked back to the world of vinyls. With the use of them on the rise CD’s maybe need to have an edge over their historic counterparts. As a piece of design they have been able to explore their case as more than just a piece of plastic with a booklet. This again aims to hold the same feeling as a vinyl used to for a listener. They were built as an experience to be viewed at the same time as listening. I really think the design choices of the Symbols, photography and the diecut on the front helps with this whole feeling of being emersed in the world Of Monsters and Men.
Just to finish off, here’s the lyric video for Humans the second track from the album.
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