Re-designing House Music

A few years back a project came our way to design a set of House music albums for CD (covers, inlays, discs etc). Anyone who knows us (specifically me Justin!) knows this is my dream job - I’ve been collecting house music for over 30 years, (also Detroit Techno, and a sprinkling of old skool Hip-Hop).

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An opportunity like this comes along once in a blue moon (I mean, who gets to design their favorite music idol’s album covers!?). So I thought I’d share a bit of the design process here…

The old design

Around the mid 80’s when house music began to arrive in Europe, the music’s vinyl record sleeves had a kind of ‘brand’, a logo of sorts – horizontal lines, a downward pointing arrow, contrasting colors (silvers/greys seemed to be used a lot) and huge, condensed angular fonts off-set with solid shadows — this ‘design’ was pretty much on any house track worth its salt, especially in the UK thanks to London Records.

I spent some time trying to figure out who originally did the design – after some serious digging, the best answers I could find was 1. Possibly by BCM records, Germany, and their in-house team, (Thomas Luckau, Klaus Waack?) or 2. By Undercover (a UK design Agency) for PolyGram Records, actually, there’s not much history out there (on the inter-web anyway), if anyone’s got the facts I’d love to know. Email me.

The New Design

I love the old design – it’s iconic – and I know a lot of other ‘house heads’ do too, so with this in mind I decided the new design must honor that original classic – and to do this I was simply going to modernize. After a few mocks, I knew how I was going go about it, basically strip the original design down to its essentials, add smoother, curved elements, introduce a modern bright color pallet and accent with a softer ‘loved up’ typeface – The CD’s are called I LOVE HOUSE after all. Coincidentally the name of the typeface I choose was called Arista, it has a warmth and a modern ‘web 2’ feel, with a slight ‘club 80’s’ vibe, which I thought would fit perfectly.

Predominantly black each new release would be accented with one high contrasting color (accompanied with grey subtext). This main color would be used on the big design elements and track listings. The new diagonal ‘arrow’ mark would run on the cover, back, and inner sleeves – giving the flat design some movement. Saifam, the music publishing company also wanted the track listings on the front cover. Once the initial design was signed off, I could quicking add a new color for each new release.

This was one of my favorite jobs, even if the Italian/English (Saifam are an Italian company) copy translations was at best, a challenge! I still have some very fond memories of working with them – alas the series came to an end, but I did go on to produce a few other covers for them. Saifam still sells the CD’s here.

…Oh and a shameful plug – I still create the occasional ‘mixtape’ celebrating House, Techno and Hip-Hop, take a listen via my   Soundcloud account.

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