This is the third in my series of posts about the visual design for my Canons album. I’d like to share some photos of the culmination of the process: the physical CD.
Instead of a conventional jewel box, I decided to go with a four-panel digipak, which actually has six design components: front cover, back cover, spine, inside flap, cd tray, and cd surface.
I debated whether to include the liner notes in the album but decided against it for a few reasons: wanted to have the flexibility to edit the notes later, wanted to keep printing costs down, wanted to simplify the process of designing the packaging (took a long time even without notes!), and wasn’t sure how many people would read the notes. This was still a very difficult decision because I think that printed notes are one of the main advantages of a physical album over digital, and I know I’m more likely to read notes when I can hold them in my hands.
Even without the notes, the physical album still has a blurb on the inside flap and a painstakingly typeset track listing on the back cover. I acquired a special font that has the OpenType feature of Tabular Figures just so I could get the numbers to line up perfectly. (Anyone interested in the notes, please read them here.)
I’ve posted the square version of the album cover before, but here you can see the rectangular version that I made specifically for the physical CD. You’d think that taking a square design and making it fit a rectangular template would be pretty easy, wouldn’t you? But even with a slight change in aspect ratio, I found I needed to resize the fonts, rekern the text, and reposition all the elements and it was almost like starting from scratch.
I’m delighted by the way the digital designs translated into the physical object: I feel that the real, printed thing actually looks better than the designs! There’s only one very small detail that didn’t come out with perfect accuracy — can you guess what it is?
All right, I’ll tell: it’s the self-eating snake that I placed on the CD surface close to the center. That snake is an ouroboros, a medieval alchemical symbol of eternal recurrence. In the context of this CD, it’s meant to evoke the way some canons proceed in an infinite cycle. The ink got shifted slightly in the printing process so the gap that should be present between the two colors of the snake isn’t preserved all the way around. No big deal. Overall, the look and feel of the physical album is precisely what I aimed for. A debt of gratitude to my friend Angelynn Grant who guided me through the many questions that came up during the design process that spanned several months!
[Facebook Post from March 1, 2017]
For much of my life I’ve wanted to make a CD — not just in the abstract sense of “an album,” but a real physical thing with cover, spine, notes, etc. I’m glad to be getting in while there’s still a chance! In anno domini 2017 there are still some people, in some places, who possess the hardware required to play these shiny discs, and there are still some companies that manufacture them. I remember when CDs first came out. This was in the 80’s. I was in computer camp. Five-and-a-half-inch floppy discs were all the rage, overtaking cassettes. In a magazine, I read about some newfangled optical storage technology that was on the horizon. I went around telling the other kids how many megabytes of data we were going to be able to store on these new discs–amazing!–and they called me a nerd for being so excited about it. Yes, the kids in computer camp called me a nerd, how about that? Fast forward. I’ve just spent a month working on the visual design for my CD. I uploaded PDFs of the design to the manufacturing service and they generated this 3D virtual-reality preview of what the CD is going to look like. How cool is that?
Addendum — April 3, 2017
Here’s what the boxes of CDs looked like when they arrived at my house. I posted this image on Facebook with the note: “Help. I ordered an album by this obscure composer and they sent me 600 copies! What do I do with all these?”
Addendum — April 7, 2017
I sold a few copies of the CD to Brattle Bookshop in Boston. Here’s what they looked like on the shelf. Having grown up in the 80’s and 90’s and having spent countless hours scouring record shops, there was one thing I wanted to experience in my life (well, more than one, but this was a big one): I wanted to see my own CD on the shelf at a record shop. I posted these photos on Facebook with the note “Brattle Book Shop is one of the few places left in Boston where those of us who are still attached to the experience of shopping for physical CDs can indulge in our increasingly archaic pastime. Should you choose to go to Brattle and peruse their eclectic collection, you might notice three copies of the album Canons by Rudi Seitz and Matthew McConnell on the shelves, while supplies last.”
I’ve been searching for art to use as an album cover for the set of canons that I’ve been working on since 2014, now performed beautifully by Matthew McConnell on harpsichord. The images I’ve considered so far reveal a lot about the album itself, so I’d like to share this story of the hunt that’s now lasted five days.
Here’s a visualization of Canon 2 from my Canon album.