Dis|cover 2014… with Tetsuo

Remember 2014? Yes, that was last year! Nevertheless, I want to go back one more time and present my very own selection of favourite record covers of the previous year. Surprisingly, here are a bunch of record sleeves of music I never listened to, stuff that popped into my eyes while browsing shops and reading newsletters.

Antoni Maiovvi – Avrokosm (Not Not Fun)

Antoni Maiovvi - Avrokosm

A prime example of what a good record cover might do, I started listening to the music after seeing this beauty. It shares all the qualities of a poster advertising a seventies sci-fi movie, obscure imagery that makes one want to find out more. Notice the mismatching reflection on the lake. Designer unknown.

Update: Actually, this seems to be a take on Tangerine Dream’s Stratosfear sleeve.

Deejay Deer – Natur (Numbers)

Deejay Deer - Natur

Sometimes a good photo is all it takes, and someone at Numbers must have thought the same. The picture itself dates back to 1909 and I always had a sweet spot for portrays that show a person in a strong, dignified way. Photography by Underwood & Underwood.

Oberman Knocks – Dilankex EP (Aperture)

Oberman Knocks - Dilankex EP

Here’s a record I actually bought last year and I’m not ashamed to admit I bought it soleley for the design. Not that there’s anything about an Autechre remix or even Oberman Knocks himself. Bold design, high contrast and a clever die cut. What’s not to like? Designer unknown.

Clap Clap – Tayi Bebba (Black Acre)

Clap Clap - Tayi Bebba

I have to admit, I first saw this cover in high resolution while tracking down the image for this post. I always liked the colours and composition, but I was mildly disappointed about he clean, digital (?) look — the lack of texture. Still, a favourite of 2014! Designer unknown.

Caribou – Our Love (Cityslang)

Caribou - Our Love

Not exactly my favourite Caribou record, but longtime collaborator Matthew Cooper came up with this sleeve worthy to add. Reminds me of Carnovsky‘s RGB room and some of Erosie‘s work.

Rustie – Green Language (Warp)

Rustie - Green Language

Alright, I complained about the clean detail of the Clap! Clap! sleeve, but that’s exactly what makes the Rustie cover so great. And the unreal look of those flamingos, I still find it hard to believe it’s an actual photo. Artwork by LuckyMe’s Dominic Flannigan with photography by the amazing Simen Johan.

Roughlung – Untitled (Cleaning Tapes)

Roughlung - Untitled

Maybe a bit of random choice, but it represents a for a style that has become a favourite of mine in recent years. Grim, with an almost metallic quality. Designer unknown.

FaltyDL – ///I\II\\\\ (Ninja Tune)

FaltyDL - ///I\II\\\\

A bit too Instagram maybe, but let’s not pretend: this is why I use Instagram myself, and it’s probably why you either love or hate it yourself. Artwork by Thomas J. Simon, who was already responsible for several of FaltyDL‘s earlier sleeves.

Powell – 11-14 (Diagonal)

Powell - 11-14

Simple and cute. Powell had a series of covers in a similar fashion and it would nice to these go on for a bit, as Modeselektor have been doing over the years with their trademark monkey. Design by Guy Featherstone.

Future Islands – Singles (4AD)

Future Islands - Singles

Yet another band I never heard about, but the cover caught my attention. I like a collage now and then and there’s nothing more to say about this one. Artwork by Beth Hoeckel.

If you like this post, check out the rest of the Dis|cover series, including selections by Shaun Bloodworth, Optigram, GiveUpArt and others.

Dis|cover 2014… with Shaun Bloodworth

Whether you know it or not, you have likely stumbled across the work of British photographer Shaun Bloodworth before. Sometimes referred to as the photographer of dubstep, his long-lasting involvement in the music scene goes far beyond that. You might remember his L.A. Dope series we wrote about some years ago, in which he portrait then-rising producers from the city of angels. Among his work are collaborations with GiveUpArt‘s Stuart Hammersley, like The Green Series and North/South/East/West, and of course the many portraits shot for the Rinse mix series.

So today, three years after GiveUpArt took turn, we’re very happy that Shaun took the time to pick his favourite record sleeves from 2014.

Aphex Twin – Syro (Warp)

Aphex Twin - Syro

I like the idea of providing a recipe almost, that you can follow to make your own SYRO, and also the bonus track that can’t be played because its a cardboard record. The idea has equal importance to the visual, something that has always run through Ian’s work. Design & art direction the Designers Republic.

Simon Pyke – Universal Everything & You (Warp)

Simon Pyke - Universal Everything & you

This was a tie in with Universal Everything exhibition at the Science Museum with a track by Matt Pyke’s brother Simon. There are 4 different covers based around the organic animated doodles you may have seen at the Museum. The inner vinyl is illustrated with black & white organic doodles.

Hudson Mohawke – Chimes (Warp)

Hudson Mohawke - Chimes EP

LuckyMe have produced some amazing sleeves this year —Rustie, Clark, Cid Rim— but this is the best I think, although I wish the mock Photoshop version that was floating around with HudMo in the centre had been released. Design & art direction by LuckyMe, photography by Zhong Min.

Matthewdavid – In My World (Brainfeeder)

MatthewDavid - In My World

I love this sleeve so much, Matthew and his daughter Love as if they are posing for a 17th century old master. The photograph also reminds me of a Brothers Grimm etching by David Hockney — The Enchantress and the Baby Rapunzel. There was also a really amazing video that went with this on pitchfork as a teaser. Design by Seth Ferris and photography by Logan White.

Venetian Snares – My Love Is A Bulldozer (Planet Mu)

venetiVenetian Snares - My Love Is A Bulldozeran-snares-my-love-is-a-bulldozer

No idea who is responsible for this, but I wish I’d done it, great idea for a portrait. Traditional simple arresting cover, where photography is the key factor. Design by Arnold Steiner.

Nozinja & Tessela – Wa Chacha (Warp)

Nozinja & Tessela - Wa Chacha

This started out as a press shoot in a pub near Islington, but it worked so well that the photograph was used for the cover. Nozinja turned up the the torrential rain wearing a white spandex tribal two piece, didn’t really have to do much, the picture made itself. I also shot them outside in the rain holding bright dayglo umbrellas. I was asked to design this sleeve, but thankfully I bottled it, and handed it to my friend and collaborator Stuart Hammersley at GiveUpArt who used his trademark bright colours and tight typography. Wish we’d done more this year together.

Various Artists – Bleep 10 (Bleep)

Bleep 10

Bleep’s brand colours (green & blue) are used through everything including the NSEW and BLP/GRN series Stuart and I did with Raj Chaudhuri and Dan Minchom at Bleep. The custom logotype is based on a really basic 3×4 grid and carried onto some type details on the rest of the packaging, the chunky 10 is lovely.

ALSO – EP01 (R&S Records)


ALSO is Laurie Osborne (Appleblim) & Alec Storey (Second Storey). The glitchy type represents the choppy rhythms found in the tracks. The sleeve is printed simply in a metallic purple and pale minty blue, I think this is 1 of 3 with an album to follow in the same style. Very simple and beautiful. We’d planned to do something similar with the press photography but it didn’t come off unfortunately. Design and art direction GiveUpArt.

Bonobo – Northern Borders (Ninja Tune)

Bonobo - The North Borders

Saw this at the Novation/Walls gallery in all its glory at their ADE exhibition, really beautiful and unlike most covers I’ve seen over the past few years. Has a lovely hand made quality to it. The box set had lots of tie dye/Rorschach type ink illustrations by Leif Podhajsky.

Illum Sphere – Ghosts Of Then & Now (Ninja Tune)

Illum Sphere - Ghosts Of Then And Now

I know Ryan (Illum Sphere) paid a lot attention to getting the correct photographer for this cover, I thought the whole set worked really well. I did some press shots which were in black & white too, it was nicely directed by Ninja Tune. Photography by Silvia Grav.

Shaun Bloodworth’s work can be found on his website and Vimeo. He shares good music and other wisdom on Twitter.

If you enjoyed this feature, please check out previous installments put together by Optigram, GiveUpArt, Colectivo Futuro, Sven Swift, Nitzan Edit and myself.

The Designers Republic: Work, Buy, Consume, Die

I became conscious of the work by The Designers Republic with my increased interest in the music released on Warp Records and the Wipeout video game franchise on the Sony Playstation. My guess would be, that unless you have a special interest in graphic design, your story would be a similar one. Creative Review just announced that the Nicola Paton is looking for funding for his documentary on the former Sheffield-based design studio (they closed down in 2009.)

You can support the director by backing the project via his Kickstarter page, the campaign runs until June 9, 2013.

Program Your 808

You probably remember the first round of these prints: Afrika Bambaataa, Cybotron, A Guy Called Gerald and Adonis. Four classic beats and how you’d program them on the Roland TR-808 – that was the basic idea behind Rob Ricketts‘ poster series. On March 1st, the Birmingham-based designer announced eight new designs that will all be available shortly for £12.00 each. Here’s a look at them:

Rob Ricketts' 808

Afrika Bambaataa – Planet Rock (poster)
Cybotron – Clear (poster)
A Guy Called Gerald – Voodoo Ray (poster)
Adonis – No Way Back (poster)
Hashim – Al Naafiysh (poster)
Freeez – I.O.U. 1983 (poster)
Warp 9 – Light Years Away (poster)
Mantronix – Needle To The Groove (poster)
C.O.D. – In The Bottle (poster)
B.B & Q Band – Genie (poster)
Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing (poster)
Loose Ends – Hangin’ On A String (poster)

The size for the posters is A3 (297mm x 420mm), all Indigo printed on 200gsm Symbol Freelife Satin paper. If you’re after the whole batch, you can choose between several bundles on Rob’s online store.

September 13, 2013 If you planned ordering some records from Bleep, let me mention that they sell Rob’s posters as well!

Dis|cover 2012… with Optigram

In the last couple of years, we asked friends and designers we admire to put together a selection of their favourite record sleeves. Previous editions were curated by Stuart Hammersley (Give Up Art), Nitzan Hermon (Edit, Fineart) or Colectivo Futuro, but this year we were a bit hesitant seeking out a curator. We are most honoured that Manuel Sepulveda (aka Optigram) was interested and availaible on such short notice. Known for his countless designs for Hyperdub and more recently Planet Mu and Bleep, Manuel build up an impressive body of work in the last couple of years, regularly ending up in many best-of selections himself. But let’s hear (and see) it from the man himself.

I’m glad I was asked to make this list as it made me do a bit of extra research into what had been produced this year – I found about half a dozen great sleeves that I’d never seen before. Once I’d finished putting this list together it was nice to see that good covers were coming from a variety of different media still, be it photography (straight, manipulated and collage), illustration (traditional media and computer-assisted), 3D computer renders (realistic and surrealistic), or just straight-up graphics.

I’ve seen a few “best sleeves of the year” lists recently on some music sites and they seem to be focused around albums that have gotten good reviews; there seems to have been an inability to separate good music from the sleeve it comes in, with some terrible sleeves being lauded just because the album was great, and conversely some great sleeves getting overlooked because the album got a poor review. With the exception of seven of the albums I actually have no idea what the music even sounds like from the following list, and of those seven I only like four of them. These are simply covers that I thought were interesting and well executed.

One other thing, I’m not particularly interested in packaging, so even though there were some albums which had great packaging design (like Cave Painting’s Votive Life) they haven’t made this list. I believe that a strong image is by far the most important thing. Clever printing and fancy folding bits of paper just don’t move me.

Sakanaction – Yoru no Odoriko (Victor Music)

Sakanaction - Dance of the Night

Anyone interested in cover design should remember to look beyond European and American releases. It’s obviously much harder to come across great design from Japan or Brazil or wherever if the albums aren’t getting reviewed by the English-speaking press, but it can be worth it.

Madegg – Tempera (flau)

Madegg - Tempera

The triangle, which was all pervasive as a motif in the previous couple of years, seemed to have pretty much disappeared in 2012. You can still count on the circle though. Artwork by Hiroshi Sato.

Ital – Hive Mind (Planet Mu)

Ital - Hive Mind

Artwork by Sam Chirnside

CFCF – Exercises (Paper Bag)

CFCF - Exercises

Photography by Ken Schwarz

The XX – Coexist (Young Turks)

The XX - Coexist

It says someting about the strength of The XX brand that a cover with just a solitary X can be recognised as a release by them. Artwork by Phil Lee.

Robert Glasper Experiment – Black Radio (Blue Note)

Robert Glasper Experiment - Black Radio

The headshot is a common staple of the album cover, but they can be really uninteresting, so I think it’s important (if possible) to try and do something unusual with it. Artwork by Giuliyani.

Young Magic – Melt (Carpark Records)

Young Magic - Melt

Artwork by Leif Podhajsky

Lorn – Ask the Dust (Ninja Tune)

Lorn - Ask the Dust

Artwork by Jesse Auersalo

DVA – Pretty Ugly (Hyperdub)

DVA - Pretty Ugly

I did a few album sleeves this year, and even though I’m pleased with most of them, particularly the albums by LV and Traxman, and Lion by Harmonic 313, I think the best cover I did was probably released at the start of the year. Artwork by Optigram.

Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city (Aftermath Entertainment)

Kendrick Lamar - good kid m.A.A.d. city

Sometimes an uncrafted image just works perfectly.

Andy Stott – Luxury Problems (Modern Love)

Andy Stott - Luxury Problems

If I didn’t know any better I’d have said this was a cover for an indie band from the 80s, like The Smiths. Photography by Otto Bettmann.

Django Django – Django Django (Because Music)

Django Django - Django Django

Artwork possibly by Dave Maclean

Horseback – Half Blood (Relapse Records)

Horseback - Half Blood

I find it hard to specifically make out what this is a drawing of, and maybe that’s why it appeals to me so much – the mystery of the macabre. Artwork by Denis Forkas Kostromitin.

Lone – Galaxy Garden (R&S)

Lone - Galaxy Garden

Artwork by Konx-Om-Pax

Jam City – Classical Curves (Night Slugs)

Jam City - Classical Curves

If I had to select the best cover of the year it would probably be this one for Jam City by Sina Taherkhani. It matched the music perfectly.

The Darkness – Hot Cakes (Wind-Up)

The Darkness - Hot Cakes

I know it’s cheesy and a bit sexist but that’s obviously the point, and the painter did it well. It’s also worth pointing out how serious most cover design is (and has been for several years) so it’s good to occasionally see humour in album design. It’s just a shame that humour seems to only be seen on rock albums these days – I can’t remember the last electronic/dance cover that made me laugh. Painting by Diego Gravinese.

Laurel Halo – Quarantine (Hyperdub)

Laurel Halo - Quarantine

What am I saying, this one was funny too. I’m not being immodest and putting a second sleeve of mine in this list – although I put this together, it was a painting by Makoto Aida that Laurel herself chose. I was just the hired help.

Spoek Mathambo – Father Creeper (Sub Pop)

Spoek Mathambo - Father Creeper

I love that this evokes some of those classic paintings that adorned the covers of Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis albums in the early 70s. Artwork by Daniel Anum Jasper.

Robot Koch – Cosmic Waves (Project: Mooncircle)

Robot Koch - Cosmic Waves

Artwork by Fefe Talavera

The Rolling Stones – GRRR! (ABKCO)

The Rolling Stones - GRRR!

What I liked most about this was the idea that after more than 40 years the owner of those famous lips (designed by John Pasche in 1970) was finally revealed. Painting by Walton Ford.

If you want to find out a bit more about Optigram, make sure to visit the website or browse the discography. Manuel’s personal work recently got its own website, Werk (Not Work), and a Twitter account.

Unlike last year, I kept some of my favourite artworks of last year in a special folder. I will present my selection in a post coming next week.

Dis|cover 2011… with GiveUpArt

Following the first part curated by Colectivo Futuro, it’s Stuart Hammersley of GiveUpArt taken over the second. The London-based graphic design studio was founded in 2006 and since then helped shaping the face of dubstep – from the logos and identities of Rinse and Tempa, including cover artworks including both debuts from Skream and Benga, or my favourite – the entire Apple Pips catalogue. Further examples of GiveUpArt’s work can be found here, here and here.

Below you can find ten of Stuart’s favourite artworks from 2011, and I’m sure many of you will agree on his selection. Let me point out that it’s worth clicking the images, as they sometimes reveal a different view!

Rustie – Glass Swords (Warp)

Rustie - Glass Swords

Reminds me of a Roger Dean prog cover – crossed with an eighties Athena art – in a ‘good’ way… Designed by the very talented Australian Jonathan Zawanda

Toddla T – Cherry Picking (Ninja Tune)

Toddla T - Cherry Picking

I think is a limited editon 12″ released on record store day this year. A lovely idea – a screenprinted clear plastic sleeve combined with some gorgeous red vinyl makes a sexy cherry. Designed by Peter & Paul in Sheffield… Clever sods. : )

Julio Bashmore – Batty Knee Dance (3024)

Julio Bashmore - Batty Knee Dance

Addison Groove – It’s Got Me / Minutes Of Funk (3024)

Addison Groove - It's Got Me / Minutes Of Funk

Jon Convex – Convexations EP (3024)

Jon Convex - Convexations EP

Really liked the last few 3024 12″ house sleeves from Erosie – a great colourful mess of pattern and texture – that manages to look individual yet easily recognisable at the same time as a 3024 release.

Balam Acab – Wander / Wonder (Tri Angle)

Balam Acab - Wander/Wonder

I just love the simplicity and mystery of this cover shot… [photo by Emmette Murkett]

Blues Control & Laraaji – FRKYS Vol. 8 (Rvng Intl.)

Blues Control & Laraaji – FRKYS Vol. 8

Borden, Ferraro, Godin, Halo, Lopatin – Frkwys Vol. 07 (Rvng Intl.)

Borden, Ferraro, Godin, Halo, Lopatin – Frkwys Vol. 07

FRKWYS is a sister lable to RVNG records out of New York. This series started before last year, but they put out a couple of lovely sleeves in 2011. Tipped on single colour print on coloured paper stock, containing the track list and cover imagery – onto a leatherette’ style cover stock.. It has the feel of a private pressing, or a fanzine – and reminds me of single-colour photocopied flyers that I used to make for parties we put onwhen I was at college. By Will Work For Good from NY. Superb…

Jamie xx – Far Nearer / Beat For (Numbers)

Jamie xx – Far Nearer / Beat For

You’ve just got to love a pink and red gradient… Nice play on the original minimalist artwork for his Gil Scott-Heron remix album. Well done Numbers… and hello to the Remote Location boys!

Massimiliano Pagliara – Focus For Infinity (Live At Robert Johnson)

Massimilliano Pagliara - Focus for Infinity

Love the type-free cover photography of rocks and minerals – feels like a shot from an old encyclopaedia. [artwork by Michael Satter & Sandra Doeller]

Matthewdavid – International EP (Brainfeeder)

Matthewdavid - International EP

Cover image looks like it’s some VHS video feedback shot from a tv screen… That analogue lo-fi oddness matches perfectly the woozy, hazy sounds that Matthew makes… This EP and the album he realeased as well was one of my highlights of 2011. Matthew’s a really great guy.. (Check his label Leaving Records, too)

Scratcha DVA – Madness (Hyperdub)

Scratcha DVA - Madness EP

Not sure who’s designed this cover for Scratcha‘s latest EP on Hyperdub. But I love the Weird, disorientating, psyche-y colours… [artwork by Optigram]

“Bleep:100 Tracks 2011 (Bleep)

Bleep:100 Tracks 2011

A bit of a shameless plug I’m afraid (sorry!) – and not technically a sleeve design as such… Bleep approached us to design the packaging for their digital compilation of the 100 best tracks of the year. Instead of just purchasing a download code for a Zip file – we made a package that you would receive or could buy as a gift. It comprised of a fold out poster with a unique download code on it, that came in a recycled card wallet stamped with clear foil text details. The poster contained loads of data that Bleep had collected from their site over the year – best seeling tunes, most searched for artists, most popular labels and so on.. so the design derived from all of this data that was presented in a (to my mind at least!) beautiful way.

I hope you enjoyed this feature! For more of this, feel invited to (re)visit last year‘s features, the Cover Culture blog, and for vintage records Project Thirty-Three is always worth a visit. See you next year!

Dis|cover 2011… with Colectivo Futuro

Back in 2010, I posted some of my favourite covers of that year (well, it was only for the first half) and intended to do the same for each year. When it comes to 2011, I haven’t really made up my mind. What I noticed though is that triangles were still strong and baby photos became a new thing (2562, Samiyam or Lil Wayne etc.)

Also like last year I wanted to ask some people whose opinion I respect for their selection. The first part this year comes from Colectivo Futuro, a Spanish blog about arts and culture.

Kode9 & The Spaceape – Black Sun (Hyperdub)

Kode9 & The Spaceape - Black Sun

We really love all of Optigram‘s work for Hyperdub, we actually made a feature on his work recently. we chose this particular cover because it’s so different compared to his usual geometric patterns, it fits the music on the album nicely and the LP version is just a beautiful looking item.

Bon Iver – Bon Iver, Bon Iver (Jagjaguwar)

Bon Iver - Bon Iver, Bon Iver

This is a beautiful looking record with paintings by Gregory Euclide. There’s a pretty good interview with the artist on Pitchfork.

SBTRKT – SBTRKT (Young Turks)


the mask design for this cover was done by A Hidden Place. Also, we really love how SBTRKT has tied in their artwork to their live shows giving them a very recognizable image.

Various – SMM: Context (Ghostly)

Various - SMM: Context

Michael Cina never fails to impress us, his range of works is absolutely impressive. His cover for Ghostly‘s experimental compilation series is a perfect companion for the music found inside. we also recommend checking out his blog for features on graphic design and other artforms.

Kuedo – Severant (Planet Mu)

Kuedo - Severant

Machinedrum – Room(s) (Planet Mu)

Machinedrum - Room(s)

We are suckers for good illustration and this year Planet Mu delivered some really cool ones, our two favorites were the Severant cover by fashion illustrator Anna Higgie and the Room(s) cover by LuckyMe.

Virgo Four – Resurrection (Rush Hour)

Virgo Four - Resurrection

Morphosis – What Have We Learned (Delsin)

Morphosis - What Have We Learned

Dutch labels Rush Hour and Delsin provided two of our favorite covers this year by taking a very simple, typographic approach on the Virgo Four Resurrection box set by Marco Sterk, and Morphosis’ What Have We Learned by Tankboys.

Ezekiel Honig – Folding In On Itself (Type)

Ezekiel Honig - Folding In On Itself

We usually love most of Type‘s artworks, but this one in particular was a very special one given that it was done by Ezekiel Honig himself. The hazy photograph chosen is a perfect fit for the laid back, abstract music found inside.

Roman Flügel – Fatty Folders (Dial)

Roman Flügel - Fatty Folders

Dial‘s artwork is usually very austere and cold, but for Roman Flügel’s album Fatty Folders they went with a different approach by using a colorful photograph instead, while keeping their minimal design spirit intact.

The second part will be curated by GiveUpArt and should be online in the next couple of days, keep an eye out for that one!

Soupape Limited Edition

You might remember our feature on Alice Dufay and her Beats & Faces project. For Souleance‘s latest EP, the French illustrator created a limited edition of 15 sleeves and record spindles.

The Soupape EP was first released in December 2010 and having slept on it might turn out being good thing.

To get your copy of this unique collector’s item, be quick and head over to the First Word Records store and place your order. Or get the digital release at the same link.

As time goes by

About this time a year ago, the current design of the site went online. So I went a little through my files to share some previous incarnations and early drafts with you.

As you can see, the very first draft was very simple and the content was in rounded boxes. It even adjusted alright for different text lengths, but the idea was scrapped after all. The actual design was really simple then, as we didn’t want to delay the launch of the site anymore as some of the content was already prepared. After a while, I noticed that old content quickly disappeared so it called for a new design that allowed banners for some of the older features. As for the second version of the site, I think it was easily the worst design so far, which is why it only lasted for about half a year. I find it quite interesting we always started with a bright layout while drafting, but changed it to something darker for improved readability.

It keeps surprising me that current version is only a year old, if feels much older. While it still has one or the other flaw, I think I could go on with it for a while, maybe polish it up a little bit some time this year.

If you want to leave any comment of suggestions or critique, this looks to be the right post to do so!

Edits by Edit

Nitzan Hermon, founder of Fine Art Records and a man with overall good taste (check his tweets) has launched a new poster project titled “Edits by Edit.” Thirteen creatives, designers and musicians, took a minimal approach to design posters that represent music genres. Here are some of the results:

Haven’t decided on a favourite myself, but I’m somewhere between Twist, Detroit Techno and New Wave.

Each screen printed poster comes in A1 size (that’s 594×841 millimeters or 23.4×33.1 inches) and costs $75. You can get your’s on the Edits by Edit website or the Bleep store.


Following previous features on designers working in music business, such as Machine, Ian Johnson or Mat Design, the guys of Jutojo were on my list for a while already. The trio of Berliner based designers is probably best known for their work with Jazzanova and Sonar Kollektiv, for whom they produced countless record artworks, but also visuals for their clubnights.

Below you browse through a selection of their work, primarily their history of record covers, and read a little interview.


Can you please introduce Jutojo to us?

Jutojo are Julie Gayard, Toby Cornish and Johannes Braun, three cousins – two of them studied graphic design in London and one architecture in Berlin.
They formed the studio Jutojo when they started working for Jazzanova and their label Sonar Kollektiv in 2001, designing their record sleeves and doing the visuals for their weekly clubnight in Berlin.

When it comes to your influences, what are they and was there a common factor that helped you get together?

I think a lot of our first abstract film work for clubs came out of seeing Hans Richter films from the 1920s in which he filmed flat black and white shapes moving back and forth in space, created with simple means that gave the illusion of space and a sense of rhythm. Graphically we also like things produced with simple means: making objects, projecting onto them with light or a 35mm slide image and re-photographing them. Creating things in space and then moving a camera around an object, to find the best view, comes more out of curiosity rather than in reference to any particular graphic designer. Although we do like the work of Julian House/Intro for Stereolab and Broadcast, early Peter Saville Factory stuff and the way Saul Bass worked.

How do you work together? Does everybody have their own projects or do you work as a team?

Since our field of work is comprising print as well as film/projections, we tend to divide the areas between ourselves: Julie is responsible for the printed matters and Toby and Johannes for the projections and films, and making animations for video installations.

What makes Jutojo tick, the things you have in common or the differences?

We share an interest in creating visual products printed or filmed that use techniques where visual effects are often created through a physical process in a real space and where the computer is just a tool to finish the product off and make it reproducible. Be it photographing objects distorted by water, a typeface as a sculptural object or confetti on a scanner.

Before I came across your new website, I knew you primarily through your work for Sonar Kollektiv. Do you remember how that happened?

It was the starting point for us. Julie had just come back from studying in London and Alex Barck from Jazzanova, whom she knew, asked her to design the sleeves for their new label Sonar Kollektiv. It quickly went on to take it into the clubnights, since Berlin’s clubscene at that time was experimenting with club visuals a lot. It gave us the opportunity to try out various things and find a common language between print and projection.

Designing countless covers for the label, how did that usually work? How much were the musicians involved?

In general, the label heads Jazzanova had trust in our style and were quite open to anything. Most of the time the music was club orientated and concentrated on a singer, so it could be quite abstract. Sometimes the artist/musician would have an idea or photograph that we should work with. They only got really involved when the album was for a singer: then the marketing and distribution departments took over and argued that the singer “has to be on the cover” in a certain style to be clearly marketed. But we only did 3 or 4 of those.

Jazzanova Logo (2001)

I think the Jazzanova logo deserves special mentioning. Can you recreate the process of how that came about?

Jazzanova wanted a flexible logo, that could be used in any medium and that could change but still be recognizable as such. Inspired by tubular furniture, we created an alphabet made out of bent wire, so that it becomes 3-dimensional and can be photographed, filmed, hung… We first used them for the Jazzanova album cover, and also filmed and animated them for their clubgigs. A Japanese designer made a version of it in japanese letters for their Japan Tour and for t-shirts.

Is there something like an all-time favourite among your work for Sonar Kollektiv?

Jazzanova’s 12″ series that came out just before the In Between album, but that was actually for JCR Records, where Jazzanova released their own music at the time.

The first two Secret Love compilations we conceived and worked together with illustrator Maria Tackmann on.

The Off Limits 2 series of 12 inches with confetti

You also did visuals for some of the Jazzanova parties at WMF. What do you (dis)like about the medium?

The initial buzz with club visuals came by making moving images with quite primitive means in a low-tech way in our bedrooms and then showing them in a space full of people and seeing how the visuals fitted to the music and could effect the atmosphere of a room. Our first loops were things like a growing and shrinking red dot or a pulsating, slightly out of focus white line made by zooming in and out of a neon light in a subway with a super 8 camera on “auto-b”. After a few years we realised that although we got some positive feedback and invitations to big music festivals around Europe and even Japan and USA, the club was not really the place where an audience really follows the visuals – also, the club music often didn’t have a lot to do with the content of our images. We were always trying to follow and react to the music but not the other way round. Just now we have performed a new piece called “Staub” with Phillip Sollmann aka Efdemin where sound and image are generated at the same time and interact more with each other.

You can find a lot more of Jutojo’s work on their website and of course the Sonar Kollektiv release page. I also want to point out the possibility to buy the font resulting from the Jazzanova logo design and their Vimeo page.

Some Record Covers… part 2

About a week ago, I showcased some of my favourite record covers this year. At the time I also asked Belgian musician, designer and shop owner Dynooo for his opinion on the matter. The reason I picked him was simple: the artwork for his own Gum Dragon EP impressed me a lot and I’ve been a huge fan of his delivery post articles for his Mac Fly shop.

I credited the artwork where possible, among the designers above are Wallzo (Hot Chip), Laura Brothers (Warp 2010), Chris Johanson (Quasi) and Maya Hayuk (BFlecha).

A selection off his favourite all-time record covers comes from Nitzan Hermon, London based designer, the founder of Save Vinyl and head of Fine Art Recordings.

Find out more about the artists: Build founder Michael C. Place (Warp10+2), C100 Purple Haze (Funkstörung), Machine (I:Cube), photographer Dan Holdsworth (Jacen Solo), Non-Format (Motohiro Nakashima) or Oliver Kartak (K&D).

Some Record Covers… part 1

Always interested in the artwork that packages the music, I have collected some record covers I particularly liked in the first half of 2010. These are not necessarily records I listen to or write about, in fact I’ve included some I’m not even familiar with, stuff I came across through newsletters and some other websites. Most of them came out this year, with some exceptions from 2009.

As you can see, I’m fully backing current trends like triangles, pattern-based designs or symmetric compositions.

Some of the artists responsible for the artwork shown above: Andy Gilmore (Warp), Erosie (3024), GiveUpArt (Tempa, Rinse, Apple Pips), Optigram (Hyperdub), Donal Thornton (Onra), Future Classic Design (Future Classic), James Joyce and of course The Designers Republic. If you can help with those I missed, please leave a comment.

Watch out for the second part of this post, in which Dynooo (Mac Fly) and Nitzan Hermon (Fine Art Recordings) pick their favourites.

Mat Design

If you have been buying records in the golden era of broken beat, chances are you came across the work of Bologna’s Mat Design. Born Matteo Sola, it was his passion for music that eventually made him the designer responsible for the corporate identity of labels such as 2000Black, Neroli and Arision. He not only made the artwork for one of my favourite compilations, Soul in Motion, but also designed the sleeves for many of Domu‘s records.

Below you will find a small showcase of Mat’s work, enclosed by an interview with the man.

Can you give a brief introduction on yourself?

My name is Matteo Sola, age 35. I went to high school in Bologna (Italy), scientific type of studies, nothing related to arts or design.

How did you get involved with design?

I used to paint and draw since when I was a kid. My main inspirations came from records covers, Strata East was my favourite label. I was mostly attracted
to black & white artworks/photographs.

Have you always had an interest in music or did this only happen through your work?

The opposite, I got my job through my passion for music.

How did you first get in touch with people like Volcov and Dego?

Perfect escalation… hahah. I met Enrico (Volcov, Rima) in Milano during one of his gigs at club Pergola, I think it was in 2000. A year later I got in touch with Dego at Goya headquarters. When I popped up at the old Bugz studio, I met Orin “Afronaught” Walters.

What’s your approach when you work on an assignment, what’s the inspiration?

I always try to focus on the music the artwork should reflect to…. My aim is to give a visual preview of what you are going to listen to.

It always appeared to me, it’s more than your work connecting you to these artist. Did it become friendship?

Sure! Friendship is the key… but experience, taste and skills are not at the end of the list.

Do you have a favourite piece of your work in the music field?

There are three I like in particular: (1) The 2000Black logo – lots of interpretations of that logo has been done, mine is still pushing!! (2) Neroli’s website – a huge project at the time, something quite innovative and fresh. (3) Big Bang’s Rework album – a few years after the release on Arision, Omar’s Sing (If you want it) came out and the guy who did the cover [and was obviously inspired] just dropped me an email and sent me a CD. I’m an Omar fan… that made me laugh!!

What else have you been working on lately?

I’m taking care of proud 2be book series.

You can find more of Mat’s work on his website. He’s also updating his blog regularly and can be found on Twitter.

A Designers Republic Mixtape

Without a doubt, The Designers Republic (tDR) has been among the most influencial design studios throughout the nineties until their unexpected end earlier this year. The British Warp label, the wipEout series on Sony’s Playstation or the artwork of Funkstörung are probably the best-known identities tDR has created. A generation of young illustrators has been under the influence of tDR’s iconic designs and their distinctive typography.

While there is hope for tDR to continue its business, Noise Heat Power is looking back at Sheffield’s design house and pays an homage with a very special mixtape.

Brain Aided Dancing (download)
01. Age Of Chance – This Is Crush Collision
02. Chakk – Timebomb
03. Sun Electric – EYA (Green Velvet Funk Mix)
04. The Step – Yeah You!
05. The Funky Worm – Hustle! (To The Music…) (Predora Mix)
06. Moloko – Tight Sweater
07. Junk – Your First Kiss Was My Last Breath Pt. 1
08. Pulp – Babies
09. Subsonic 2 – DJ Cassrock Don’t Care
10. Subsonic 2 – Addicted To Music
11. The Orb – Perpetual Dawn
12. Sweet Exorcist – Testone (Winston & Ross Remix)
13. LFO – Shove Piggy Shove
14. Love Street – Galaxy
15. Krush – House Arrest (The Beat Is The Law)
16. LFO – Track 4
17. Bleep & Booster – Technotropolis
18. Pop Will Eat Itself – Can U Dig It?
19. Age Of Chance – Kiss (Collision Cut)

[…] ‘Brain Aided Dancing’, an MP3 mix dedicated to music wrapped by Sheffield’s legendary design house. Every track included in the mix is plucked from my own music collection; sometimes bought for the sound, sometimes for the sleeve, and often a bit of both. It’s therefore a highly personal response to the Designers Republic’s work and the music within; there is certainly nothing comprehensive about it, and I’ve made no attempt to create a definitive record of their twenty-plus years’ hard labour. Rather, I have tried to engineer a mix that works on its own terms but that also stirs in a few of my favourite examples from their back catalogue. There are singles and there are album tracks – all were eligible so long as the sleeve bore the DR name.

I planned to add a gallery with the artwork of those records, but I did not find the images in good quality. Instead I’m giving you this book recommendation and an interview (in Spanish but featuring nice work!) with tDR founder Ian Anderson.