Revenge of the Graduate Portfolio 1

Normal service resumes after my big move!

The first piece in my graduate portfolio and probably the best is this set of album, cassette and CD for Greg William’s album ‘Louder Than Words’. Not only was this the first album cover I designed, it was also my first professional, paid design job. The project was actually begun in the break between my third and fourth year. I had been a frequent attendee at Greg’s live gigs around town after catching him performing in the University bar one evening – at some of his midweek, late night gigs, sometimes I was the only attendee (I was a student, I could afford to be out to all hours in the middle of the week ๐Ÿ™‚ I’d struck up a friendship with him and had previously used one of his songs for inspiration in a third year photography assignment. Greg wanted this album to have a ‘dramatic presence’ and figured that my enthusiasm for his music was a good enough reason as any to get me to do the design.

Among other firsts, this record was the first and only vinyl album I have actually ever designed, in fact it was probably one of the last vinyl albums to be produced locally. It was also designed completely ‘sans computer’, difficult to comprehend, I know, but no pixel touched this design – in fact it was designed sans typesetting or even letraset. This was my first experience in ‘pasting up’the artwork for print. Pasteboard, rubber cement, blue pencil, tracing paper overlay – I feel so old. I did have limited access to typesetting and computers at the time – I just wasn’t really that comfortable with either, especially on my first ‘professional job’.

I took my inspiration for the design from the title of the album ‘Louder Than Words’ – in that ‘actions speak louder than words’ as the saying goes. I used broad simple brush strokes in a Matisse inspired design, to outline an impression of Greg playing his ever present acoustic guitar. This was blown up on a photocopier so the image bled off the cover becoming even more abstract. All of the type including liner notes and lyrics were handwritten, and blown up as required on the photocopier again. I used a palette of straight cyan, yellow and black (overprinted with cyan) to emphasise the ‘bold action’ – also I was confident in the result I would get in printing these colours.

Greg and the record company were really pleased with the results – quite a few reviews for the album even mentioned the design – I was pleased than my first printed work came out as well as it did. Generally I got a good response from my lecturers at the time. Some of their comments were that they thought I could have been a bit looser and more free with my paint-stroke marks, and looking back, my handwritten type falls uneasily between being deliberately interesting an naive and just plain bad handwriting. It also doesn’t translate as well as it could have to the smaller CD format – the CD was a last minute inclusion and required extra text to be added to the cover which distracts a lot from it, it was a new medium and I was under the pump to get it out, I don’t think I even owned a CD at the time.

Out of all the pieces in my fourth year portfolio, this piece is probably the most successful, not just in the final outcome, but for the learning curve it took me on to produce it – from working with an actual client, to preparing final art, even negotiating a final fee. It’s had it’s share of accolades, appearing in the books ‘Design Downunder’ and ‘The World’s Best Music Design’. I even still trot it out on occasion when I’m specifically showing my portfolio to music clients, I’m still doing album cover work for Greg as well ๐Ÿ™‚

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