Tuesday, 20 January 2015

OUGD406 - Brief 01 - Is Album Artwork Still Relevant?

But as recorded music gained popularity in the post-World-War-II era, record labels began to use album sleeves as a marketing tool. Album art not only served as an ad for the album inside, but helped shape the image of the artist.” –David Merline, “Is Album Cover Art Gone For Good?,”Web2Carz, September 26, 2012By jettisoning the physical “product” of the record album, or the DVD, or the book, the art that was once contained within these packages has to stand on its own merits. With no nifty package to lure you into a purchase, you have to want to listen to your albums, or read your books, or watch your movies, or play your games, because there is no longer any “thing” to own, or admire, or display on a shelf.

As people barely keep up with fast-paced, ever-evolving technological advances, the question does remain as to whether album cover art (and albums) are really relevant anymore in our culture. At first glance, these dinosaurs seemed to have gone the way of camera stores, photo albums, landlines, and snail mail.

Just the other day, a fellow soccer mom approached to thank me for uploading digital photos onto our Team Stream site. She confessed that, while she dutifully brings her camera to every sporting event, she still has all those unlimited shots stuck in her camera. “I don’t know what to do with them and I don’t know how to upload them onto Facebook.” Such is society in a nutshell, and the tidal wave album collectors fight every day.

For without art in every form, even the byproduct of a record label’s money-making scheme back in the heyday of album cover design, circa 1970s-1980s, the world seems bleaker, harsher, gray. And a society without art is a dull, dying 1984 society of robots, rules, regulations, and the bare existence to survive.

Just compare the Beatles’ breakthrough album – for its music and its cover art – “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” released in 1967, and the generic vanity thumbnail jpegs littering iTunes today. Absolutely no comparison. According toWeb2Carz’ David Merline, “That album was one of the first in which the cover design made as much of a statement as the music. It was one of the first rock albums to include printed lyrics, one of the first to have a custom inner sleeve, and its elaborate cover, composed of life-size cardboard cutouts of various artists, musicians, and celebrities, cost around $5,000. That was an astronomical sum at the time (roughly equivalent to $65,000 today), but that cover went a long way toward making Sgt. Pepper’s one of the defining albums of its generation.”

I believe that album art is clearly still as important as it ever was. People still connect to the record through its visual aesthetic, I know that I certainly do. The two go hand in hand, and with out the album art the song seems incomplete. The fact that competitions such as Secret 7 exist is testimony to the power of album cover design and artwork. 

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