Tag Archives: Cut Copy

Favourite Australian Album Covers 2017

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve covered this, but being an area of certain interest to myself I figured the time had come around to give it another shot. The main reason I stopped  doing it a few years back is because i was having such a hard and frustrating time coming up with with a substantial enough list to make it viable. Design for music really seems to be in the doldrums in Australia, even as I noticed a significant uptick in quality the quality of overseas cover design in 2017. Maybe we just need a bit of time to catch up. My choices are based on the sole criteria of ‘I wish I had done that’, so judge the results as you will. There are some fantastic contributions to the form below, mostly coming from the fringes of what you would regard as mainstream releases. I’ve got to say it was a real slog coming up with what I regarded as worthy inclusions, but maybe I’m just not thorough enough or I’m getting too old to know what ‘the kids are down with these day’. I’ve always held that if the musical artist cares enough about their records, then more often than not, they will package it in a design that shows the care they’ve put into it. Maybe in this age of Spotify and Apple music it’s just not a consideration anymore. Most of these albums are also available as vinyl releases, they certainly deserve to be presented in that format. I haven’t tried to credit the designers /artists/photographers behind the covers this year, is was holding me back from actually putting this up, digging for credits for every piece, but please feel free to get in contact if you know of any and i’ll add them accordingly, in fact, If you are one of the creators of these pieces I would love to hear from regardless. As I’ve said above, these are my favourites, if you have any of your own please feel free to leave a comment, I’d certainly love to see any crackers that I might have missed.


A great, beautifully simple design by Traianos Pakioufakis (check out some more great album design on the site), for Jen Cloher’s self-title album. It’s really comes down to the sublime candid photograph by Luke McLean Stephenson (the black edge of the pic poking through is a nice touch). The restraint in the design is what really works for this cover, it helps that it’s a cracking batch of sons to listen to as well!



King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard released 5(!) full album releases in 2017, the above is just one example, they are all great designs, awesomely produced by the great Jason Galea. Nice to see a current band so involved with producing good music and great visuals.



This is an album that has sort of snuck under the radar, I haven’t really heard much about it at all for such a high-profile Australian act. That said, I like the cover, and Cut Copy seldom disappoint with their artwork – sort of a through-back to the 90s, it has that late Not Only Black & White magazine aesthetic happening (design by vocalist Dan Whitford) – plus the imagery forms a kind of visual haiku if you look at it long enough.


The Kite String Tangle-The Kite string tangle

A great image can make all the difference as this cover demonstrates. It’s an engaging graphic used here (not sure if it’s a photo or some photoshop trickery) by The Kite String Tangle – I like the little logo in the bottom corner there too but I’m not sure whether it distracts too much from the overall visual. Great colour range too.



Country music isn’t renowned for it’s engaging album cover imagery, but Fanny Lunsden’s cover here for her album Real Class Act is a definite exception in that regard. Even a seemingly simple photograph can be used to stunning effect when handled right. I love the choice of typeface in the top left corner as well, I only wish the artist’s name had been similarly considered, as it kind of spoils the overall effect tucked there in the bottom right-hand corner.


Methyl Ethel

Methyl  Ethel have been getting plenty of airplay and some love from international music mags like NME. As you would expect from an outfit described as an ‘Art Rock Band’ the cover comes with the requisite ‘first year of art school’ painted nude, aesthetic -(by Holly Fewson) which is actually meant as a compliment, there’s a really nice freshness to it, in contrast to the choice of that black background which gives the cover a bold standout quality. I’m sure this looks stunning on the full 12 inch album, brave choice to leave the band name and title off only their sophomore release.



There’s alway room for a bit of nostalgia when it’s handles just right. The name ‘The Cherry Dolls’ lends itself  to such a treatment – and they’ve certainly gone with it. There’s kind of that early 80s indie record artwork thing going on there too with the hand script at the top and the colour overlay. It’s in ‘full stereo’ too! Which is always good to know.



There’s nothing particularly ground-breaking about Holly Throsby’s After a Time cover, but in a year worth of covers that couldn’t be bothered, I thought it would be nice to finish up on something that shows just a little bit of thought can produce something quite sublime and appropriate – needless to say the typography is well considered also.


Interview With Jonathan Wallace of Alter

I try to keep tabs on what’s happening that’s new and interesting as far as The Australian Graphic Design scene goes. If I see something that impresses me I’ll usually dig a little further to find out who did it. Such was the case while watching Foxtel one evening when I saw the advert spots for the Australian Music Video Awards. Not only were the spots pretty funny, poking fun at some of Australia’s best known musical artists, they also had a fantastic retro graphics style that immediately appealed and stood out. It wasn’t long before I recognised that this was the work of the same talents behind a lot of the great graphics of ultra hip local record label Modular. I’m talking about Melbourne design studio Alter. I talked to Jonathan Wallace about his work and aspirations for the studio,

Chris Bowden: When did you first decide to become a designer. Was there the proverbial ‘pivotal moment’?

Jonathan Wallace: I’m not sure how to pull history apart, so I’ll say that it’s more a succession of smaller moments. I’d left Melbourne University because the philosophy students were really annoying me. I loved the idea of philosophy, but in practice there were too many people talking about themselves. Then I worked in quite a few unrelated, menial areas. In one (an exhibition hire company) a friend told me ‘art’ at Tafe was great fun. I tried it. He was right, Tafe was fun, so I decided to continue to University. The Design people didn’t talk about themselves as much, but at times they did look at themselves in mirrors, windows, etc. Maybe I did that too.

I’m not sure that I ever really decided to be a designer. Though I do think of it as a very lucky job to have. I began to believe a career in design might be less implausible midway through my second year studying it at Monash University. Prior to that I was really just kidding myself with ideas that it could be a way of earning a living without working hard.

CB: Who or what inspires you at the moment?

JW: The usual suspects I’m afraid… art, film, music, pop culture, etc. I’m often inspired by the guys I work with (I know that’s really cheesy, but it’s essential really). Dan, Rick and Dion are all doing interesting things both on and off the field. I really loved some aspects of Daft Punk’s Electroma, it brought Eno back for me like a weird, romantic vision from memory. We’ve had some old Talking Heads on lately anyway, some German stuff and Ariel Pink. I’ve really enjoyed seeing people jumping at sold out Cutters shows and standing quietly watching a sold out Sly Hats show (I was slightly awed and think there might have been a few tears amongst the crowd). We’re also checking out the new Cut Copy release.

CB: Which of the projects that you have worked on in the past are you most proud of and why? I’ve been really blown away by the work you’ve done for Modular – they seem to be very open to pushing the boundaries in how they present themselves from their music releases to their online presence, could you also speak a little on your relationship with them?

JW: Tough question. Lots of them had a little moment that made them ‘real’. To single something out, Modular comes easily to mind. We’ve done quite a bit over a few years and there are certainly people whose perception of Modular is linked directly to the kind of coloured, layered and indiosyncratic work that we’ve produced. Who knows what the future will hold, but we’ve had a great run with them and made a contribution that we’re really proud of. I guess the freedom we enjoyed in the creation of the artwork has conveyed something of the nature of Modular and Alter at the same time. At its best, that’s how the relationship works… it’s like, symbiotic. Yes, I am joking. The Modular people are cool, it has been fun.

CB: One of the highlights of having Foxtel was the seeing the spots you did for The MTV Video Awards. Could you discuss a little about the work, how it came about, the process, how much freedom you were given, was it as much fun to do as it looks? Any plans to expand in this area?

JW: Thanks again! It was kind of a crazy job to have, putting together all the creative for the AVMAs. We began with the logo and a video camera. In the end it was everything aspect from animation, print, live action to the MTV channel branding itself. The freedom was amazing, we we’re suprised by the fact that the MTV guys were into our lo-fi cut and paste ideas. The ‘red carpet relay’ commercials with the bands was also a really simple concept to link in teaser band spots in the lead up to the awards. The idea was that we’d see the bands in less glamourous situations, sometimes just sitting doing nothing. Bands being boring… not something that’s entirely that easy to sell. It was great fun doing the shoots… attempting to get something out of a few minutes with a band and then a crazy rush to another location. Thinking about Adelaide for a moment, The Hilltop Hoods were good guys, they put a fair bit of effort into it and had to be patient while we negotiated to shoot on the tracks with the local rail authority.

This kind of work is really fast and we learned that it pays to have various alternative plans laid out. We also learned to be adaptive to circumstance. There are some real advantages and some fun in the speed of production. We’d love to do more work in the area. I really enjoyed the challenge of project managing a creative brief on that scale.

CB: You’ve done a few album covers, and obviously you’ve got a pretty close connection with Cut Copy, any artists you would absolutely love to do work for?

JW: Maybe Daft Punk and Beck… I think we’d do something that’d work for them.

CB: What are some of the things you do to keep yourself motivated?

JW: I ran. Past tense. Then a snowboarding injury meant I needed an operation and… need I go on? I’m currently between exercise regimes. Beer and wine can only provide so much motivation, so I’m looking forward to a full recovery. I also try to get out and see things. It doesn’t really matter what. I think once you’re looking there’s no shortage of inspiration. Cliché yes, but there’s a reason for that. Another great motivation tool is a holiday, though I don’t really have enough of them. I find different sources of motivation professionally, things like keeping up with the news and the odd good post on Design Observer.

I also think I need to spend more time with my family and friends. Again, simple things.

CB: How do you approach a new project? How do you overcome the ‘dreaded blank page’?

JW: Quite often we don’t do a thing once the briefing is over. We just keep working. And then the talking begins… maybe a week later. We’ve all been thinking about it. We’ve got quite few things on the go at any given time, some of it blends together, some ideas that we discuss together stay in the collective memory until they find a way into something we’re doing. Or planning to do.

We try to do the empirical thing when possible. It works when the quality of the brief is right. But since we are often working on very open briefs, some just don’t function in terms of empirical planning and execution. They require a period of gestation and don’t really seem bound by the same logic as more defined jobs. The client might say ‘do your thing, I just really love the Alter look’. We talk about what that might mean. Do we have a look? Is it Modular? We usually try to work away from a ‘look’. If someone wants us to do something a little unexpected, which is our interpretation of ‘do your thing’, it might mean that they actually do not expect what we present to them. This can have very mixed results… but it’s actually challenging for everyone in some way. That’s a major factor in motivation. We like to feel like we have an opportunity for creative change. It’s our name.

Lately we’re working within tight deadlines and this is dealt with through management. We usually work to a timeline laden with requirements from the client, various suppliers and for ourselves. I’m sure this is a more ‘real world’ situation and it’s something we’re becoming increasingly familiar with.

CB: What project and, or client that you haven’t worked on would you love to (go to town, think of this as your ultimate ‘fantasy assignment 🙂 and why?

JW: We’ve talked about Qatar… I think it would managing the entire process of developing a Museum of Modern Design in Qatar. Upon completion it would be inducted into the New Seven Wonders of the World. Say goodbye Mexican step pyramids of whatever…

CB: Alter’s work seems to run the gamut from the very experimental ‘arts inspired’ projects to a nice range of more corporate projects, is this a conscious decision to keep yourselves open and flexible, or is it just how things have worked out? What direction would you like Alter to take over the next ten years or so?

JW: As I mentioned earlier, in the past the business has developed in a mostly organic way. These days we’re actually consciously choosing direction a little more and have begun to pick the projects we’re taking on. We’re realistic about it as a business, but didn’t begin for that reason. I hope that we can continue to grow. But not too much. I’d like to think that we can expand our own ideas and build the freedom to express ourselves even more. Our own projects… we have an idea for a book. But that’s another story.

CB: Finally, you obviously enjoy and have a great affinity for the music design stuff, what music have you guys been listening to lately?

JW: Ariel Pink, Neu, Cluster, Hot Chip, Cornelius, J.P. Shilo, Mum Smokes, Fabulous Diamonds, Panda Bear, Brian Eno, Sly Hats, You Will Die Alone, Kes, Muscles, Ned Collette, Serge Gainsbourg… lots really. And, of course, that Cut Copy record coming soon…

Thanks to Jonathan for being so accomodating with his time and responses – one of the things I’ve found out from doing these interviews is that the most talented designers are more than often the most generous and friendliest! You can see more of Alter’s work at their website here (it’s a really nicely designed site as well). I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of their great work around the place in the future.