Music shares many common ideas and themes with the visual arts. For example, repetition, rhythm, harmony, tone, shape, space, scale, line, texture and colour are terms common to both the musical and visual language and this project was focused around these points.
In this University Project we had to listen to music, draw an abstract response then create 2 CD covers from what we heard and below is how I went about doing it… This is how to design a CD cover just by listening to music. I would advise to scroll down and look at the final designs before reading the article.
Oh and before you correct me, I actually did 3 CD covers because I enjoyed it so much instead of the 2 requested. You may have even noticed me putting them up in my portfolio last week.
The project was divided into two parts and in the first part we had to listen to 4 contrasting pieces of music. We had to take an A4 page and draw a simple visual language of what we heard. We could do this only by using the basic elements of line, shape and colour and it had to be a non representational, abstract design and we could only use the 6 spectrum colours (red orange yellow green blue purple).
We had to aim for a contrast between the drawings and let your subconscious tell you what shapes and colours represent each type of music. Kinda cool in a creepy kind of way.
Below you can see my 4 visual responses after listening to the music.
- The first was a slow, smooth, soft, calm watery type song.
- The second was a upbeat funky song.
- The third was a hard rough death metal rock song and the
- Fourth was an electronic digital sounding song.
We then had to discuss our results with our peers… All 120 responses from 30 students were pinned to a board and compared. We then had to choose which of our own drawings provided the most contrast and you can see number 1 and number 3 had the most contrast so I used these two (I later chose to do number 4 as well). We then had to use these drawings above to develop them into CD covers and the final designs had to strongly reflect the initial graphic responses.
After brainstorming many different ideas, I decided that whatever I was going to do, it was going to be in 3D probably due to the fact that I enjoyed my Vodka Bottle project in Cinema 4D so much – that is the beauty of University, you get so much creative freedom!
I then came across this post called 50 Essential Photoshop Text Tutorials and I saw in there a tutorial link to design in 3D (Nik Ainley style). I knew that I wanted to do something like that and I got inspiration from his two pieces that are shown below.
After a bit more brainstorming I came to the concept of using one word to describe the type of music that the band played. I would then use that word as the main piece on the front cover. I chose the word Smooth for the calm music and the word Rough for the heavy metal music and the word Digital for the electronic music.
I then went out and got myself a copy of Xara3D (USD$45) which I tell you is VERY easy to use for a 3D program. It took a total of 10 minutes to figure out without any tutorials, just playing with the buttons.
I then pumped out the 3D letters into Photoshop and then did about 80% of the designing in Photoshop and 20% in illustrator for the vectorised pieces. Below you can see the design process I used to create the first CD cover.
You will notice the visual consistency between the three CD covers as we were required to have this between both designs, there were meant to be all from the same publisher. We also had to have all legal requirements on the CD jackets.
The album title was given to us and for the smooth song it was called Mad World, the rock one was called Attitude and the electronic one was called Equinoxe. The first Smooth cover took a day to complete and the attitude one took about half as long as I was more familiar with what to do and the digital one took about 3 hours.
Below are the final designs, try to compare them to my visual responses up above.
You will notice in the Smooth design, I have used the colours blue and green with an ocean type feel (check out the Jellyfish).
In the Rough design you will notice I have used angry red colours in a grungy chaotic mess that reflects my original musical response. The text was purposely made hard to read to reflect the chaotic nature of the music.
In the Digital one I have used an in-your-face, high energy, bright coloured design which reflects my original music response. You will notice the circles on the back cover, kind of popping as like in my original drawing.
CD Mock Up
Constructive criticism is welcome as always, please be as harsh as possible. I won’t hate you, I am here to learn! What is your favourite? You can read more of about my University work by visiting the university category page.
Brief credit goes to Lydnal McGovern from Newcastle University.