Album Design Inspiration: the FUTURALBUM Collaborative Design Project

Album Design Inspiration

If you’re a fan of the ‘Zine, Cleveland’s best website designers, Go Media, and Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, you’ve heard the name Troy DeShano. No stranger to the design community, Strong Odors Artist and Illustrator, Troy is constantly creating, collaborating.

A few of his projects include the Old and New Project, a growing biblical art and design collection he runs with fellow artist and designer Jim Lepage, a photography project highlighting his cancer diagnosis and journey, and speaking engagements including his recent time on the Weapons of Mass Creation Fest stages.

Troy’s most recent work, a collaborative design project called FUTURALBUM, invites top international graphic designers to contribute re-imagined cover art for any album they choose. The goal of the project is to give the artists an opportunity to design something “just for fun” – a rare treat for those of us often bogged down with design work tasks.

Let’s check in with Troy, as well as some of his contributors, who will tell us a little more about this exciting project.

Designs by Pope Saint Victor | Jim LePage | Ben Stafford

Designs by Pope Saint Victor | Jim LePage | Ben Stafford

Troy:

I’m not sure exactly what “inspired” FUTURALBUM, other than the fact that when I first discovered Flickr’s Internet Archive Book Images it blew me away.

I definitely wasn’t planning to start another personal project. The last thing I needed was one more distraction with no paycheck to show for it. But some recent soul searching had shifted my focus into music design, and here was this super cool resource I wanted to share with all my peers—so the idea just kind of grew out of that.

I had enough experience running Old & New with Jim LePage over the past few years, I knew how much time a project like that requires from both organizers and contributors. So I decided to keep it very, very simple. Invite friends, collect designs, post designs. That’s it.

I just wanted FUTURALBUM to be fun.

Designs by Laura Medina | Kelsey Dake | Christine Herrin

Designs by Laura Medina | Kelsey Dake | Christine Herrin

With constant anxiety around client approval, and growing peer pressure to always create hand-drawn lettering, illustrations or even your own fonts for every single project, I thought this could be a great outlet for a bunch of us to create something just for fun—like we did before graphic design became “work.”

I give each contributor great freedom to create the art they want. They choose the album, and can do multiple designs if they feel inspired. Some get a kick out of throwing a bunch together in an hour, while others invest major time into a single album cover design. By adding a few simple but strict “rules,” it challenges each to exercise that creative muscle in the way only possible when working with limited resources.

My favorite Milton Glaser quote: “The next time you see a sixteen-color, blind-embossed, gold-stamped, die-cut, elaborately folded and bound job, printed on handmade paper, see if it isn’t a mediocre idea trying to pass for something else”

When I set out to do a painting, I know it would be easier if I had this nice big canvas with which to begin, but I have the extreme limitation of my non-existent budget. In fact, I’m totally broke and can’t justify spending even a dollar on paint or brushes or especially canvas. So I draw from that folk-art spirit and just create the best work I can using whatever happens to be nearby.

Designs by Clint McManaman | Shane Harris | Doc Reed

Designs by Clint McManaman | Shane Harris | Doc Reed

What is really amazing, and I know most fellow creatives can attest is how those limitations naturally force me to be creative. We just sadly forget it sometimes, because we imagine eliminating the frustration with added resources will make the work easier—and therefore better.

Here’s another case where “life imitates art,” right? We imagine the benefits associated with more money, fancier phones, faster food, and less work will make life easier—and therefore better. What we’re really doing, however, is robbing ourselves of the conflict, the struggle, the wrestling that makes life interesting and fun and exciting and worth living. It’s in the act of overcoming (or struggling with others to overcome), in which we discover purpose and joy and satisfaction.

It would be a lot easier to paint on an actual canvas, but would that resource miss the inspired quality I might unearth by nailing a bunch of boards together for mine?

Of course for all this talk of the valuable impact of limitations to spur creativity, I’m a firm believer that rules are obviously made to be broken. Can’t wait to see the exciting ways the rules of FUTURALBUM are challenged by these incredible artists this year!

Check out the designs and short interviews with the designers below:

Album Design Inspiration

Tame Impala, Lonerism
Design by Karen Kurycki

Go Media: What inspired you to create your piece?
“I love this album by Tame Impala. Their music is defined as “Psychedelic rock” and reminds me of something you might listen to while tripping on acid in the 70s (not that I’ve experienced an acid trip in the 70s) but you can imagine what it might be like if you did. I wanted something that conveyed the idea of floating through space or a tunnel; or like the way a kaleidoscope works—with multi-colors and dimensions—so when I was searching for an image in the Flickr album I was looking for something that might reflect that idea. I stumbled upon this picture which was actually some sort of cellular/amoeba structure and thought it might work perfectly, so I combined it with some of my watercolors and multiplied the layers in Photoshop. I had a lot of fun working on it, thank you Troy for inviting me to participate!” – Karen Kurycki

Album Design Inspiration

Youth Lagoon, The Year of Hibernation
Design by Liz Schaeffer

Go Media: What inspired you to create your piece?
“I think the nostalgia, that listening to this album always give me, was my first source of inspiration. The album, The Year of Hibernation, totally brings me back to a winter where I was hibernating in my apartment and binging Trevor Power’s (Youth Lagoon) music.”

In what ways does music inspire you as a designer?
“I have tendency of indulging in genres of music at a time and what is most inspiring while doing so, is how an on going playlist can help me get into a flow state while I am designing, drawing, whatever the task at hand may be – it helps me lose track of time, in the best way.” 

How did limitations spur creativity in this project for you?
“I actually love having limitations while designing – it is like solving a puzzle. Troy’s limitations, especially, I think prompted some really great and unexpected results, which leads me into the next question..”

What what most exciting for you in this process?
“Using Flickr’s Internet Archive Book Images was exciting for me. First, to search around through what in the collection resonated with me and my nostalgia with the album. Then, figuring out a way to manipulate these photos of concrete things (in my case, old landscape photos) into the abstract disposition that the album and winter, gives me.” –  Liz Schaeffer

Album Design Inspiration

Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Design by Anne Ulku

Go Media: In what ways does music inspire you as a designer?
“Music creates a visual language in my mind. When listening, I imagine abstract graphics, colors, or patterns that might associated with the sounds or story of the lyrics. Music is a way to stretch my imagination as a designer. Even if the design may not be fully executed, listening is still a good creative exercise.” – Anne Ulku

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Ellie Goulding, Bright Lights
Design by Christine Gerhart

Go Media: How did limitations spur creativity in this project for you?
“The limitation of this project pushed me to strip away all that was unnecessary and get to the essence of what I felt the album was about. It was harder than I expected, but once I finished once design, I couldn’t wait to do another one.” – Christine Gerhart

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Radiohead, In Rainbows
Design by Margot Harrington

Go Media: What inspired you to create the piece?
“I actually got stuck on the idea of Radiohead being such a mecca for designers, like it was an obvious choice. BUT. The title “In Rainbows” immediately felt like it could be all sorts of images, and I was excited to play with something colorful like a rainbow, so that’s why I decided to work with this album in the end.” – Margot Harrington 

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Gregory Alan Isakov, Songs for October
Design by Nick Evans

Go Media: What inspired you to create your piece?
I have such a wide scope of music taste that it was hard to really nail down an album cover that I wanted to refresh with my design. So what I did was cycle through my Spotify list and found some artist that I have been listening to for a while and looked at their artwork and was like, “Hey, this could look a little better if we went with this.” One of the things about this project was that there were two things that were required, using the photos from the Flickr album and the font Futura, which is one of my all time favorites. So with that in mind it was a matter of finding those images that I thought could go together and really go great with the album of choice. It took a while to search through the site, but I landed on a couple that I knew in my mind that they would work. I put the album on and started putting it together. The music really helped in the process as well, especially in the coloring.

Go Media: In what ways does music inspire you as a designer?
Music does a LOT for me when I design. It really sets the mood and pace of my creative runs. Like I said I have a wide range of taste of music and so it really kind of depends on what mood I am in. Right now I am in a rock funk, so its a lot of hard hitting stuff, and that really gets the juices flowing. I would say it’s a big part, because there is not a time that I am not doing work and not listening to tunes. Its not cool not having music playing…just not right.

Go Media: How did limitations spur creativity in this project for you?
I think it really helped narrow the focus a TON. Not saying that I don’t like creating something new, but with this one, it harked back to one of my favorite design “genres” of using classic or old artwork. Growing up and becoming a designer I always enjoy seeing how other designers used classic photos and images with album art or ads, or whatever. So this was like a dream project for me. I embraced everything about this project’s limitations.

Go Media: What was most exciting for you in this process?
I think it was being a part of a community of designers that I look up to or envy and see my work next to theirs. You have to respect those who inspire you. It made my day when I had some fellow designers recommend me for the project, I couldn’t thank them enough for doing that. So I just am so honored to be on this page. I have always wanted to participate in a community design project, so this has been an EPIC experience. I also really loved the part when they tweeted out the link and said that the artwork was up on the site. I was like, YES, and the other great thing that they are doing is including the artist of the album as well. Very sweet! I think that is great of them to do that, might lead to other opportunities for the artist to maybe get noticed or be able to do some work. Two fold.

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Killer Mike, R.A.P. Music
Design by David Sizemore

Go Media: What inspired you to create your piece?
“My inspiration was primarily informed by the volume of visual assets I needed to acquire. Because I wanted to do more than just a cover, I needed a series of images that would compliment each other.”

In what ways does music inspire you as a designer?
“I normally can’t listen to albums I’m not extremely familiar with unless I’m doing rote production work. I only have a dozen albums I “design to,” augmented by songs I’ll listen to on repeat for hours. So when music inspires me, it happens distinctly away from the design process. I like it that way.”

How did limitations spur creativity in this project for you?
“Limitations are great. When you don’t have to consider your typeface, you can focus on layout and composition. I was able to find base images and produce all my pieces in just a couple hours because the boundaries honed and expedited the process.”

What was most exciting for you in this process?
“Freedom from client input combined with a clear brief excited me. It was an exercise, and exercises can be very rewarding when approached with the right mindset.” – David Sizemore

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Rancid...And Out Come the Wolves
Design by Alex Griendling (alexlikesdesign)

Go Media: What what most exciting for you in this process?
“The most exciting aspect was Troy allowing me to make three separate covers for Rancid’s “…And Out Come the Wolves”. I enjoyed making my first cover so much and thought it’d be an interesting challenge to make two additional versions, much as you would with any design project. It’s great that Troy designed Futuralbum to have a minimal amount of requirements, allowing designers the room to bring their own ideas to the project.” – Alex Griendling

For more Troy: Strong Odors | Facebook | Twitter
Follow FUTURALBUM: Official Site (Tumblr) | Twitter | Instagram

About the Author, Heather Sakai

Heather Sakai

Heather Sakai is the Arsenal Manager here at Go Media, home of the world's best mockup templates, vectors, textures and other must-have design weaponry. She also serves as the Chief Inspiration Officer at Weapons of Mass Creation Fest. Heather is proud to work for the most passionate creative agency in the universe, the best in Cleveland Web Design, custom branding and print.

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