02005-08-01 | Uncategorized | 2 comments

Major transitions in Music packaging design: singles (7″ sleeve) to LPs (12″ sleeve), then condensing the design down to a MC (cassette), then migrating to CD booklets… and now? Some kind of virtual package! Something you download together with the music. A PDF perhaps, a PowerPoint presentation, a Quicktime file, a web-based Flash presentation? Could be partly animated. Should contain all of the information traditionally included: credits, thank-yous, tech data etc. Information on the performers could be hyper-linked to their email addresses or photos. Name of the studio could link to a photo-set on Flickr. Very interesting possibilities. I spoke to a designer last week who mentioned that the very students who are in design school and want to learn how to design a CD booklet own no CDs themselves and prefer to keep their music on iPods and computer. Why learn a dead trade?

PS: I myself am looking forward to designing for this new medium. There is only so much space for information and pictures in a small CD booklet! When a booklet has many pages it becomes difficult to remove it from the jewel case without tearing. And does it really matter whether you look at a cover printed by some professional printer that came with a CD you bought, or whether you print your own – or take it to somebody like Kinko for example? Buying a CD is no more personal than buying a file, IMO. The integrity of an artist’s vision is completely intact with the downloaded music and artwork. You can listen to “my” track sequence or create your own. You can look at the artwork on your computer or you can print it out. The difference between that and the traditional CD is no larger than the difference between the CD and the LP… IMO.

PPS: I don’t think I expressed the irony of the situation in my original post. See, the designer was teaching and this particular course covered how to design a CD booklet. The teacher asked the students to bring examples of cover art they liked from their CD collection – NONE of them had CDs! That’s funny, right?


  1. stretta

    Why learn a dead trade? The core design principles are easily transfered to other types of design. Good design will be in demand, regardless of medium. You can see it everywhere.

    However, album artwork being a dead trade is debatable. All current iPods (the main, larger capacity ones) display color album artwork. Mine does, and I have a cool utility that sifts though your iTunes library, calls up Amazon, downloads the appropriate artwork, and embeds the images into the MP3 tags. It is called ‘Export Artwork’ and it is actually an applescript. It may seem trivial, but I can visually shuffle though songs more quickly when I see album artwork. My brain parses it faster than reading the text.

    I’ve also noticed some CDs are released with a partition containing a high resolution RGB version of the album artwork so you can embed the art yourself when you encode the CD.

    Interpreting music visually will be with us for some time. CD covers may be phased out, but music videos will continue to be important. I also predict that amateur music videos will make a significant contribution to the pool of available media to consume.

  2. Curt

    Album artwork design isn’t, and won’t ever BE, a dead trade. I think what Ottmar was referring to as a dead trade was the CD booklet – in paper format. But virtual album literature still can have “pages”. I think this is a brilliant concept for future releases from all record labels. Not ONLY becase I had this idea a few years ago (!) but more importantly because it saves trees. And the fact that there is no plastic disc means that we reduce dependency on oil.


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