Cover for me

Designing record covers is ostensibly my job! Here are a couple of artworks I made this spring that I am particularly happy with:

Hospitality On The Beach 2019 Record Cover

This year’s kind-of-annual Hospitality mix album was timed to tie in with the label’s Hospitality On The Beach party. Our first idea turned into an awkward problem involving a girl with a tattoo, so I decided to follow the form of the last couple of Hospitality albums, but this time make it out of sandcastles. Well, I really raided my baking cupboard and made it out of brown sugar, but the effect was perfect. I sculpted moulds out of foamboard and filler, and the cover basically did itself. I am pleased with it!

Etched vinyl disc for Urbandawn's 'Come Together' record

Urbandawn did a cheeky cover-version of The Beatles’ Come Together, and it blew up the club scene so much that Hospital felt obliged to release it. The cover design job fell in my lap, but having never been a fan of The Beatles, I found the job hard. It was as difficult as I found the task of designing beer labels as a non-drinker: these are worlds with very deep, revered cultures with which I have no relationship.

Given that, I must confess I don’t feel great about the actual cover I made. It’s a neo-Junglist agglomeration of Yellow Submarine and Abbey Road, so as a total outsider to Beatles Culture, I worry it seems like an awkward mashup of two things that a more learned person would never want together. But hey, it pleased the label and the artist, and has been well-received by its target market too, so maybe it’s a case of two great tastes that taste great together after all.

What I do feel great about, however, is what’s inside the sleeve! Hospital have been making an effort to make their vinyl more special as the market has continued its shift from DJs to collectors. Because this was a total one-off track, we got to do something for this I’ve wanted to do for a long time, which is to etch some artwork into the reverse of the record, as in most other contexts, the other side would’ve had another track.

Even better still, the design we had etched into the reverse was a revival of an illustration I did several years back. The illustration never ended up getting manufactured as the T-shirt I had intended it to be, and I was always a bit sad about its rejection as I was a big fan of the design. It suited this project perfectly, so it was an extra sweet reward to bring it back in such a unique context.

Etherwood's Lost In The Right Direction packaging

Etherwood has been living/touring in a campervan while writing music for his latest EP, ‘Lost In The Right Direction’. We wanted a way of snapshotting his life on the road, as it seemed like such a crucial part of the experience, but we only had a handful of in-the-moment smartphone photos to communicate that. We ended up using projector slides to contextualise these images on the cover, but my favourite part of this package is the inner sleeve.

Given the retro-photography concept of the cover, I extended the metaphor with the packaging of the inner sleeve. I wanted to evoke my all-too-brief darkroom days, and based on a couple of lovely comments left on my Instagram, it seems like it evoked it for other people too!

Levela - Cerebral EP

I still work with Critical, but my role with them has been a bit more technical lately, as they’ve been getting some excellent artwork done by some of tomorrow’s graphic artists. It was a nice treat to do a whole cover for them again, and this was a Critical classic – mostly black, but a shot of colours and oh-so-minimal. I’m pleased with how this one came out!

Headstand

Whiney's Waystone LP

Catching up a little on this one: Last autumn I had a fun extra-project for an album I worked on. Med School came to me with Whiney’s second album, and the title for it was ‘Waystone’. I really liked the title, and it made me think of the Giant’s Causeway, which was the main inspiration for the artwork. To make it a bit more interesting, I had an idea of using rotational symmetry to ‘break’ the faux-3D graphics, making it feel like it bent around the other way.

The idea was a sell, but as this is Drum and Bass, Whiney wanted my original version to be grimier. I obliged, and although it wouldn’t have been my choice, it ended up opening up an interesting opportunity further down the album’s development run. The label wanted some extra video content and asked me if there was some way I could do a live painting of the artwork – I thought a stencil would suit the more roughed-up design very well.

Conveniently, the label had recently moved into a new office featuring some dead space waiting to be converted into a new studio. The back wall of this space was offered to me to fill with spray fumes, and I was glad I brought a new respirator with me (Don’t spray-paint indoors without one, kids)! I spent a dark winter afternoon down south of the river laying down a bit of colour:

It made for a good backdrop for a live-streamed DJ set before it was entombed behind the new Hospital Records studio this winter. And it gave me a good excuse to do a bit of artwork on a different scale to what I usually do!

On Line

I’ve been feeling good about a lot of the record covers to come out of my brain-hands lately, but the cover for New Blood 018 deserves a spot of text to go with it – perfect for the blog.

New Blood 018

This artwork was inspired by a visit to my brother, who managed to break his leg while taking his kids to the park, and was in real-hospital as a result of the accident. One of his ward-mades was getting a transfusion while I was visiting, and I found the vividness of the blood running from the bag and through its tubing partly fascinating and partly humbling as it squiggled all over this poor chap’s bed.

NB018 CD Reverse

The image stayed with me, so I took the idea of the constant line to the typography for this artwork, and designed a suite of artwork around the concept. My original version was just as bold as the blood I saw in the hospital that day, but the creators of an album series called ‘New Blood’ insisted that it was too bloody, so I changed the palette entirely to some classic clinical teal shades.

Sweetpea - Closer - custom typography

Ox7gen - Trinity - custom typography

As well as the typography that made the cover itself, I also sweated the details with the entire tracklisting, with every artist and title drawn in the same single-line style. I was really pleased with how it looks, but we all agreed it wasn’t the most legible, so we compromised and I created a design that had transcriptions too.

NB018 Digital booklet label copy

I continued the single-line concept through all aspects of the design, including all of the label copy, which I snaked on single weaving lines through the artwork on all formats. With most of my indulgences approved in the end, the album went off to press, and is out on Med School Music this week.

NB018 Vinyl LP back cover

A Quick Cuppa

Here is my latest and greatest record cover artwork! It’s for St. Petersburg’s Bop, and a collaboration between Med School and Microfunk.

Bop wanted the artwork to look “pretty but a little bit dangerous so you wouldn’t drink it”. I tried using petrol to get a thin-film effect, but it made my Rickmansland studio smell like a garage. After a different approach, I ended up on this psychedelic cup of cha. It’s one of my favourite pieces of artwork in a little while, and it’s out today!

Appendix: A Nice Way to End a Strange Year

It’s not often you get the opportunity to revisit a commissioned design project, but it happened to me this year. To close out their twentieth year in business (and the coincidental timing of the big-number NHS300 in their catalogue), Hospital has published another book.

NHS300: Appendix

We called it Appendix, which I’m sure my more loyal followers wouldn’t be surprised to hear was my idea, given my puntastic instagram feed. It’s a 180-page hardback book, approximately the size of a 12″ record, that comes with a six-track EP of collaborations between some of the label’s current album roster. It’s a proper coffee-table art book!

Appendix: Identity

NHS300 is like a bigger, better version of NHS200. As well as being a lot larger and more robust physically, it also includes a lot more content. Naturally, it includes all of the label’s history and artwork roots, a lot of which has been expanded upon and rephotographed for the project.

Appendix: Early Logistics

It also encompasses the five years that have (unbelievably) happened since NHS200. In that short time, there has been a hundred more releases on Hospital, another 38 on little-sister Med School, a huge shift in the stable of artists working on albums for the labels, and countless ever-growing parties, all of which is covered in this book.

Appendix: New Blood

As well as rethinking the design of the book from the ground up, another new feature is more writing from me! I seem to have made a bit of a career at Hospital of writing silly things on products as placeholder, only to have the label staff tell me to leave it there as they like it.

Ricky's RejectsThis has come out in Appendix in the form of a running ‘Ricky’s Rejects’ section, where I pick out some of my favourite record covers that never were and explain why they didn’t make the cut. From my first-ever album project at Hospital a decade ago, all the way up to NHS298, things are still getting caught in the filters, and I pick out some of the highlights. You’ll have to get the book to see them!

Appendix: Are We There Yet?

Appendix: 2016

I also got to illustrate a unique cover for this, which is another satisfying improvement over NHS200. It’s a hospital room entangled with all the things that make Hospital Records what it is – music, medicine and making things, which I hope is reflected in this book!

To promote the book, Hospital MD Chris came out to my studio in the shires and we chatted about some of the artwork highlights from the catalogue. You can see the video (and some odds and ends from inside my world!) here:

NHS300: Appendix is being sold exclusively on the Hospital Shop. It’s a totally limited product – we won’t be manufacturing any more once they’re sold. So if you want one, you can have it, and just in time for Christmas too. They’re shipping now! It’s an essential object for fans of the label.

Appendix: Spines

Tiny Dance

Flea Waltz

The latest cover art project to come out of Rickmansland is Frederic Robinson’s Flea Waltz. It’s his second album, but first on Med School and first I got to create artwork for, and it’s a good one!

The brief started with Joan Miró, but I brought in a little bit of a Matisse to it too with the cut-out vibes, then I made it all out of wood. It turned out really well, and compliments the music too (if I do say so myself). Thanks to all involved for indulging me, and to Frederic for making a great album to inspire it!

Still Not There Yet

One day in a meeting at The Purple Gates, Tony said ‘I’ve had a great remix done from Are we There Yet, maybe we should do a whole album of remixes’. A few weeks later, I was briefed on ‘Are We There Yet: The Med School Scans’.

Tony’s idea for the artwork was Soviet X-ray bootlegs, but this wasn’t something we could produce with any kind of authenticity, even on a small scale, without looking like just another X-ray record cover.

Instead I came up with an idea for coloured vinyl with a purpose (rather than coloured vinyl for novelty), and made a cover design that you have to scan with the record to be able to read.

The whole project looked great once printed – fluorescent Pantones worked perfectly with the colour-blocking idea and look super-tasty in person!

Record Cover Roundup: Spring Tingz

Spring Records

Hello Internet! I thought I should show you some highlights from the record covers I’ve been designing over the past couple of months.

NHS283-Packshot-1200px

rainbows

2016 started a lot like 2015 at Hospital Records, just with a lot more rainbows. It’s a trusted design, now with rainbows on everything (just how I like it!) – CDs, picture discs, posters, T-shirts, stickers, slipmats, you name it.

MEDIC56-Packshot-1200px

futurist-gatefold

Over at Med School the first album of the year was ‘Futurist’ by Keeno. Young Keeno picked the title just because he liked the word, so I came up with this futurism-inspired illustration of a man composing at a grand piano. Of course, with a title like Futurist, I had to use the typeface Futura for the artwork!

tyoms

Med School hit the decade landmark in 2016, which is a terrifies me if I think about it too much because I came up with the original blood-stained identity for the label back in 2006. The Ten Years extravaganza took a few twists and turns, but ended up here, in what I’m affectionately referring to ‘Tennis Years of Med School’.

tyoms-early

Also included here are a couple of earlier ideas for this artwork – one looking back at some of the artwork from the past decade (which made no sense as this album is all new material!), and one papercut version of the final artwork that got downvoted by the label.

maduk-gatefold-brighter

onecolourpertrack

Lastly for now is Maduk’s debut album, Never Give Up. Maduk had 12 tracks on the album and a concept that each track corresponded to a position on a clock-face of colours, which gave a nice rotational direction to the artwork. Creating the artwork involved working backwards, trying to minimise what I started with his single last year. I’m really pleased with this one, but as is no secret, I’m always pleased by bright colours!

Kinda Literal

crinkled

The first of two big albums I’ve been working on this year is out today – Etherwood’s second album, Blue Leaves. There was a lot of artwork involved in it, so here’s a drop of some imagery, notes, and a few exclusive bits that didn’t make the cut.

final-YABAPOM

work on the project started way back in January with the single ‘You’ll Always Be A Part Of Me’. Continue reading “Kinda Literal”

Wormhole

Perspective

This week’s new release I had a hand in (literally!) is ‘Perspective’ by Anile on Med School. After MD Chris came up with the record cover in a record cover concept, we sent Hospital’s ‘resident doodler’ Snapclicker out with his camera to find us something to work for the title, and this shot from the Barbican Centre jumped out as being perfect for the job. I gave it a retro jazzy feel front and back, and with everyone happy, it went off to print.

When the final copies arrived at The Purple Gates, I couldn’t resist going back to Barbican myself to keep the image going, in kind of a wormhole style. It worked a bit better with the CD, I think. If I was to go any further though, I’d need a much wider lens!

Perspective CD

 
You are currently reading
Page 1