Visual Design

Album Cover II


I’ve finalized the cover for my Canon album.  You can see how the final design (above) has changed since the versions I included at the end of my previous post, Album Cover. Here’s a recounting of some of the steps I went through in forming this design:

  • Started with an extensive search for artwork to use and eventually decided on Jamnitzer’s polyhedra (I’ll say more about this below).
  • Created an initial version of the cover with a very dark background. Received feedback from my friend Angellyn Grant that the dark background gave the cover a rigid, “boxed-in” feel.
  • Created a new version with a solid, off-white background and repositioned the text under the image.
  • Searched for a font that would better match the image. Realized that a font I had fallen in love with back in 2010 and purchased then for a hefty sum (impulse buy, without any specific use in mind) might now in 2017 actually come in handy!
  • Decided to sharpen the image and adjust the color balance in Lightroom. Found it interesting and somewhat fun to give myself complete freedom to edit the image in this context, whereas I have fiercely avoided doing any sort of image manipulation in my art photography.
  • Temporarily abandoned the Jamnitzer image and went on tangent, seeing if I could design an alternate cover featuring a snake image I had found. Went through a whole series of emotions and shifting perceptions and eventually returned “home” to the Jamnitzer cover.
  • Decided to use a wider crop of the Jamnitzer image including the empty paper around the drawing. Figured out how to use cloning in Photoshop to make the paper appear to seamlessly extend to the dimensions I needed. Several iterations here.
  • Noticed that the paper appeared to grow lighter towards the bottom edges in the image. Used cloning again make the appearance more uniform.
  • Made many adjustments to text sizing, spacing, kerning, etc.
  • Experimented with a drop-shadow on “CANONS.” While I find drop-shadows unpleasant in many contexts, I actually loved how the drop-shadow worked here.  Adjusted shadow angle, color, blur, etc.  Tested the cover at different sizes.  Found the drop shadow turns into a blur at extremely small sizes but decided to keep it nevertheless.
  • Realized that I need a square cover for online use but will need a rectangular cover for physical CD digipaks. Having done the square design, I found the rectangular design didn’t follow immediately — I needed to make lots of adjustments to the image and text proportions to get the same concept to work in the rectangular frame.
  • Experimented with a lightened version of the cover but found it slightly sterile looking; decided to go with antique feel of the current cover.

Having now spent so much time with this cover, I’ve grown increasingly confident that Jamnitzer’s Perspectiva Corporum Regularum was the best theme to use among the many I considered. Here’s why I feel Jamnitzer’s imagery has such resonance with this album:

  • Jamnitzer’s work is a catalogue of possibilities.  It’s a celebration of variety, an exploration of the many complex polyhedra that can be formed from the building blocks of the Platonic solids. In the same way, the canon album aspires to be catalogue of the many possibilities of the canon form and exploration of how many different musical worlds can arise from the same foundations. Importantly, while Jamnitzer’s work includes polyhedra that are radically different from one another, it also includes some possibilities that look similar and only reveal their differences on close inspection.
  • Jamnitzer’s work is at once calculated and whimsical.  It’s calculated in the way polyedra are so precisely conceived and projected into two dimensions. It’s whimsical in the way Jamnitzer devises an intricate stand or pedestal for each shape.  These pedestals aren’t really necessary for the purpose of showing off the shape itself, but they add another level of interest to the work overall. The shapes are balanced on the pedestals in a precarious, almost impossible way, giving the otherwise static images a sense of drama. Similarly, I view the canons as highly calculated musical constructs — the product of planning and many iterations of design — but also whimsical and improbable. Whimsical in how I let my ear pull me in unexpected directions during the composition process; improbable in how changing one single note in many of the pieces could completely derail the composition.
  • Jamnitzer’s work have the quality of being old and new at once. The engravings have an antique look (and indeed they are “old,” having been published in 1568), but as they show geometric constructs they can never be “outdated.” The canon itself is an “old” form and I view the album as a tribute to its history, while being, at the same time, an exploration of its unvisited possibilities.
  • Jamnitzer’s work finds beauty in constrained structures, and that too is an aim of canon-writing. The fulfillment of such a quest for beauty within constraints is what makes a successful canon so appealing.
  • In a purely practical sense, Jamnitzer’s work has been convenient to use as an album theme because it happens to be available in the public domain and because it’s extensive enough as to supply not only a good option for the album cover but also material to use on other parts of the album: back, inside flap, tray, CD surface, and so on.