Tag: creativity

Top 5 album covers
of the last few years

I’ve always believed that people who are creative can be inspired by nearly anything. Art inspires art, no matter what kind. As designers, where creativity is the definition of our job, we have to be open to inspiration wherever we can find it. For myself, as well as hundreds and thousands of other designers across the globe, music is one of one of those great influences, whether it’s playing it, writing it, listening to it, or in this case, looking at it.

With vinyl making a resurgence as the preferred way to enjoy an album, the focus in the last five years to perfecting the art of the record cover has once again gained momentum and artists are experimenting with form factor, color, photography and in some cases, hidden imagery for fans to find. Here are my top five picks for the best cover art in the last few years...in no particular order.


1. David Bowie’s Blackstar

Designer: Jonathan Barnbrook

Barnbrook’s cover of Bowie’s last record is deceivingly complex. What appears to be a simple diecut of a star with black on black printing of stars cut into many pieces, is actually so much more. Barnbrook’s design, when exposed to light, reveals an image of the galaxy. The stars at the bottom of the cover actually spell out Bowie. When exposed to blacklight, the stars turn bright blue. When reflecting light off of the record onto a different surface, all three sides of the record display different images. The cover displays a star, one side is a bird in flight and the other is a spaceship. Barnbrook has also hinted during many interviews that fans have yet to find multiple additional gems that are hidden within the walls of the album. This art, to me, is the perfect farewell and tribute to one of the greatest artists of all time, Starman. It’s aesthetically simple and classic with its use of black on black, a fitting memorial for Bowie, but has all of the pizazz and depth of character that he possessed. With light being a featured component to revealing the full extent of the art, it’s as though Bowie’s starlight hasn’t gone out and he still remains present in the folds of the record.



2. The Last Shadow Puppets' Everything You’ve Come to Expect

Designer: Matthew Cooper

Super group, The Last Shadow Puppets have only released two records in the last 8 years. Their first has a distinctly 60s feel to it both musically and visually, while their sophomore record, released in 2016, seems to have aged at the same pace, with an edgier 70s vibe. The cover photo is of Tina Turner taken in 1969 by then Vogue photographer Jack Robinson, but the color is all Matthew Cooper. His mastery of warm tones adds movement and heat that make the record undeniably modern while maintaining its roots and inspiration from the 70s. It’s a great example of how simple, iconic photography with an explosive color palette can have just as much of an impact as a record with a more unique design attribute.



3. Rihanna’s ANTI

Designer: Roy Nachum

ANTI’s album cover couldn’t be more ripe with metaphor and meaning. The color palette is stark and ominous featuring a splash of red paint and a haunting black and white photo of a young Robyn Fenty (Rihanna), holding a balloon with a gold crown covering her eyes. As Rihanna skyrocketed to fame at a young age, one can interpret this as the blinders she wears from her success and perhaps her inability to grow into her crown. This theme of being blind is reverberated through a braille poem featured on the cover. The poem is a collaboration between Rihanna, artist Nachum and poet Chloe Mitchell. It touches on the idea of being misunderstood but refusing to conform to society’s norms. When asked why Rihanna chose to feature the poem in braille, her response was, “sometimes those with sight are the blindest”. Wiser words have ne’er been spoke.



4. Lil Yachty’s Teenage Emotion

Designer: Mihailo Andic

Teenage Emotion wins the most needed album art of 2017. In his own words, “I wanted to have all these aspects of teenage life...so I thought about all the things I saw in high school for the first time, that I had never experienced before. I have never seen two guys kissing until high school. I’ve never seen albino kids until high school, I’ve never seen emo kids until high school.” But unlike album covers from years past who have used people’s physical differences to shock and appall fans, this glimpse of high school life is unabashedly normal. It’s as though Lil Yachty plunked himself in the middle of a field trip to the movie theater. And there he is, grinning from ear to ear at the humanity that surrounds him. Although some have criticized him for appropriating different cultures and groups of people for his own benefit, Yachty took to Instagram Live to further explain himself, “If you have vitiligo or if you’re gay or whatever it is, embrace yourself. Love yourself. Be happy, positive.” Preach, Lil Yachty. Preach.



5. Tycho – Awake

Designer: Scott Hansen AKA ISO50 AKA Tycho

As I mentioned above, it seems like a common occurrence for designers to also be musicians and vice/versa. This case is a perfect example of a designer turned musician turned designer. Scott Hansen’s designs, under the pseudonym ISO50, are bright, modern, full of color and unique compositions. One could argue the same of Scott Hansen’s music. Although Hansen designs all of his Tycho album covers, Awake is a particularly effective merging of the two mediums. Hansen says of this piece that he wanted something that could be used in several different settings and still be recognizable. The tour announcement uses the same colors in the same succession but in a polygon instead of a circle. In some executions, the colors are in a triangular shape or a different shape within a shape. You will notice one key factor though. The colors are always in the same order. Why? Because each color band represents a track on the record. And they truly do represent each of these colors. The record flows from warm to cool but still feels like a cohesive singular unit.


-Eliza Young


You aren’t as busy as you think:
Guidance on remaining creative and getting sh*t done


If you are like me—or rather, my former self—you’re probably quite familiar with the phrase, “I’m just so busy”. It’s become the ultimate crutch, the perfect excuse to get out of inconvenient dinner plans and a reason to neglect your fitness routine. It’s even become your default answer to questions like, “How has your summer been?”—an otherwise perfect opportunity for you to share something interesting. But most profoundly, adopting the "I'm so busy" mantra is the one thing holding you back from finishing (or even starting) your personal creative projects.

Chase Jarvis, Artist and CEO of CreativeLive wrote in a blog post, “Busy isn’t success, it’s a lack of priority”. His post, and that line specifically, got me thinking about my own seemingly busy schedule and that perhaps, I in fact had the time I thought I hadn’t for creative projects as long as I made them a top-ranking priority. After some re-jiggering of my schedule, and quite a bit of trial and error, I found the following set of steps to be the most successful process in bringing creative projects to the forefront of my day-to-day.

1) Record your time and don’t leave anything out
I started by documenting, hour by hour, the way I spend my time in a typical week. Sure, I work 40 hours and get an average of 8 hours of sleep a night which, together, takes up 96 of the 168 hours in a week. But what was happening in those other 72 hours? To my shame, I found that I was surrendering that time to Netflix, shopping online, checking and BROWSING Instagram (who does that?), perusing Pinterest, yadda yadda. Don’t get me wrong, I was spending quality time with my husband, taking my dog on walks, cleaning, and making healthy meals (also known as “adulting”), but the rest of my time was being swallowed up by the nonsense.

2) Define and list your priorities
Next, I wrote down a list of my top priorities and bucketed them into the following three categories:

Self Relationships Career

This helped me organize my thoughts and highlighted the areas that needed some balance.

My creative goals, for example finishing my illustrated greeting card series and photographing my designed wedding invitations, fell under the Self category—along with yoga twice a week, journaling once a day, etc. Updating my portfolio site was a task I listed under the Career column, and more frequent girls’ nights was mandatory under Relationships. Turns out that constantly scrolling Instagram, pinning DIYs for my hypothetical garden on Pinterest, and watching hours of Stranger Things on Netflix weren’t  even close to making the priority cut (Although, ST is dope and may be budgeted back into my schedule).

3) Rewrite your week and adhere to it
I did this by creating a one-week schedule. First, I filled in the spaces that are absolutely mandatory and don’t vary from week to week like working and sleeping. then I started to allocate the more fluid priorities to the available time slots. Illustrating was now to be done on Wednesday and Thursday from  7-8 pm and photographing my projects would happen on Monday from 6-7 pm, when the lighting was still fantastic.

Looking at a map of my revitalized week helped me realize the amount of time I actually had to do the things I was neglecting for so long.  It became obvious that putting off my creative projects because of time (or lack thereof) was no longer a viable excuse. I HAVE the time, I just need to use it correctly.

Sticking to a precise schedule may be nearly impossible. After all, we’re human and curve balls get thrown at us regularly, but getting a sense of what you really care about, and scheduling those things into your week is a sure way to live a life of intent and to get sh*t done.

For a pdf of the schedule template I used, click here.

-Julia Perry