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From sounds to brushstrokes – the artistic process of album cover design

Dream job "record cover designer"

Of all commissioned works, record covers excite me the most. So much comes together here that interests me – the music, the lyrics, the translation of rhythm and sound into images, in combination with a rather loose briefing and the opportunity to get heavily involved artistically. It opens up a playground for me and creates a starting point for my creativity.

As I discussed in the blog post "Contrasts in art and music. An analogy.", music is one of my main sources of inspiration while painting anyway. Listening, however, takes on even greater significance in this case.

A commission from Hamburg

When the commission for this CD came in, I was thrilled. It was the perfect starting point: I got the music, the lyrics and a few notes on the thoughts behind it. The interpretation and the translation into a design were completely up to me.

All I got was the hint that it could also be abstract. The client was a band from Hamburg called Parity Boot, who play industrial thrash metal. Then there was my own demand to create an independent and modern design that nevertheless fits into the metal world.

Inspiration and experimentation: from idea to design

With the music on my ears, I started sketching first ideas on the iPad. We hadn't decided beforehand whether I would create the artwork digitally or analogue. In the process, I had the idea that the digital realisation would have the advantage that the automatically generated process videos would be good source material for music videos. This thought and the high flexibility of the programme then prompted me to create the artwork digitally, but "remix" it with analogue-created colour tracks and photos, giving it a real-looking snottiness.

I settled on a blood orange, black and white colour scheme early on because the description for the title song loosely reminded me of something like "12 Monkeys" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and I associate the "madness" theme with those strong colours. I also applied everything I know about contrasting imagery to achieve an exciting and delightful composition without depicting anything really concrete.

As a former art director, I have experience with all kinds of graphics and layout programmes and was free to try things out. It was a lot of fun.

Specifically, I translated the driving rhythms into quick brush strokes and gave it a certain rawness and its own visual appeal through multiplied structures. I think you can definitely see the energy and tempo of the musical template in the result.

Graphic experiments

Feedback and elaboration

I was lucky that the band liked my ideas and designs from the beginning and we agreed on one of my cover designs very quickly. At the same time Dörte Benzner designed a new band logo. The next step was to design the booklet, for which I took up the elements of the cover (brush strokes, colour world, slants, remixes) and played with them further.

First drafts

Throughout the process, there was only detailed feedback from the musicians. I have rarely felt so free and valued in a design project. It makes you wonder whether you really want to continue designing apps full-time ;) Reality only caught up with me during the compilation of the print data, because that was the normal print struggle and all the time I was desperately hoping that the print would be good and that we would avoid all conceivable mistakes.

The result

It was a special day when I finally got the CDs (jewel case as well as digipack) in the mailbox and I could see the result with my own eyes: a high-quality print with rich colours, just as it should be! But it is even more unreal to see my artwork on Spotify or in metal magazines. I am proud of the result and happy about the many good reviews for the music.

Finished CD & booklet

My artwork on Spotify: album and single

I hope for more cover projects and that one day there will be a vinyl project among them. My artwork as a vinyl record cover, that would be a dream.

In the meantime, I'm working on a series of analogue pictures for one of my favourite albums. There will be a picture for each song that relates to the lyrics and music. The idea is really tingling and I'm having a lot of fun experiencing the development and marvelling at what comes out of it. The client here, however, is myself.

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