Good Old-Fashioned Music & Design
Scott Orr of Other Songs Music got in contact with me via my blog and approached me with the idea of designing an album cover for The Good Hunters debut album. He wanted an old style sensibility to match the Good Hunters' unique sound, but left everything else up to me. A few things appealed to me about this request. First, I love it when clients come to me because they like what I've done and want to give me free reign to do whatever I think is best. And secondly, I checked out this band "The Good Hunters" and they were actually really good, so this meant I could do work that I love, for a band that I would actually listen to. So of course I accepted, and set to work doing a little research on old whiskey labels and hand-lettered signs.
Early on, I knew I wanted to everything by hand, but I didn't want to just do a simple drawing on paper and scan it in for the post-production, I wanted to do something a little different, so I came up with the idea to hand draw the artwork on a chalkboard wall and photograph it for the cover.
I started doing preliminary sketches and planned the artwork out on layers of tracing paper first to make sure I positioned everything correctly and liked all the elements I was using before committing to them. The layers of tracing paper almost functioned like the layers in Photoshop that I'm used to working with, only, there was no undo button, which made things a little bit more difficult.
I also wanted to keep a pulse on the style of the music I was designing for, and make sure that my artwork lined up with it stylistically, so any time I worked on the album art, I was listening to the new album and so that I could incorporate references to the lyrics throughout.
The artwork alludes to the Orion constellation, also known as "the hunter," crows, leaves, and roses; all references to track titles or lyrics from the album. I also hand-lettered the track list on the back, and even the moose logo for the record company is hand-drawn.
This has been one of my favorite projects I've ever worked on, simply because it combines my love of design and typography with my love for good music. There were times when I couldn't believe someone was actually paying me to do something I enjoyed so much.
What I learned
It's usually best to start on paper.
Whether I'm designing a complex interface for the web, or a purely artistic album art, there's no better way to kick off the brainstorming than a good old fashioned pencil on paper. It keeps me from letting my design tools, software, or fonts do the thinking for me, and it forces me to explore options in two dimensions.
Good artists copy. Great artists steal.
Everything we do now is just a remake of something that's already been done. There's nothing new under the sun, and any attempt to create something original will only end in frustration. Even Bob Dylan and Woodie Guthrie got their lyrics and melodies from other songwriters. The best artists are problem solvers who can combine ingredients from a variety of sources, eras, and styles to make something completely their own. Go find somebody who did it first and do it better. The sooner we learn everything is a remix and embrace that fact, the quicker we will start (re)creating great work.