COMPACT DISC NOSTALGIA
Early in my life as a professional graphic designer I was torn between my love for music and a passion for my chosen career. I had been playing drums in various “garage” bands, with delusions of making a living as a musician. I’ve recorded a few albums and fifteen years ago this summer, after months in the recording studio with a couple of good friends, we released this CD upon the world (not that anyone really cared, except for obscure radio stations in Great Britain). After years of struggling to play live shows and maintain a “real” job, I realized that the music business was gruelling, exhausting, and soul crushing. Not to mention economically unrealistic. Especially in an expensive city like Vancouver. My hat is off to anyone who can really make a go of it in the music business.
However, just because I chose to focus on my graphic design career, doesn’t mean that I left music behind. With all the friends I made of local musicians, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work on many projects utilizing my favourite all-time design format; The Compact Disc package.
I know there are many designers who lament the demise of the vinyl record sleeve for the smaller CD format. But not me. Sure, the record sleeve is more like a poster, but the CD’s rise as the dominant music format in the 80s coincided with my immersion into the world of music. The CD’s small, shiny, virtually indestructible format felt like holding a piece of the future. The possibilities for design on the CD face were better than the LP and the CD insert is closer to a book or mini magazine (which I also loved). The only pitfall were those crappy plastic jewel cases (drop it once – toast). Thankfully the paper-based “digipak” became my CD package of choice and eliminated the need for those terrible jewel cases. I’ve even produced a couple of cassette tapes in the past, but they were never as intriguing to me as the CD package.
Unfortunately with the rise in popularity of music downloads and the ease of the iTunes store, barely anyone produces CDs anymore. The last place that manufactured them locally went out of business a couple of months ago. Which is a real shame, because there is something truly exciting about peeling off the shrink wrap and scanning the photos, illustrations, lyrics, and liner notes on a hotly anticipated new release. To me, the only thing more important to a band’s branding is perhaps the T-shirt.
My previous bandmate Laura Crema has stuck with it and has evolved into a beautifully proficient jazz vocalist. She still produces CDs to offer at live shows and manages to sell quite a few in oversea markets like Japan. I’m lucky that she asked for my help with her recent release, as the chance to design a CD package doesn’t come around as often as it used to. As much as I enjoy the convenience of a music download, I think it is a missed opportunity to create a wonderfully distinctive visual to accompany the hard work of creating a distinctive sonic experience.
Oh no… I’m starting to sound like those crotchety old designers grouching about the death of the vinyl LP.