In direct opposition to Peter Saville, who famously claimed record sleeve design is a “dead art,” Designing for the First Impression celebrates some of our favourite designers plying their trade in the music game. Brand identity to record sleeve and flyer design, we’ve gone from a vibrant deep dive through Patrick Savile‘s pastel futurism, all the way to the riso printing techniques of Bristol-based design house Atelier Superplus.

Serving up an ninth instalment, we shine a light on a trio of designers with disparate aesthetics, unified by the sterling work they do to provide accompanying visuals to some of our favourite releases, brands and events.

Check the series so far: Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6 / Part 7 / Part 8


Nana Esi (STROOM/Atelier Brenda)

Nosedrip might be the ‘face’ of STROOM – the label founder likes to obscure his actual face in photos with a crude, hand-drawn smiley – but Nana Esi is credited as the brains behind its visual identity. As co-founder of the Atelier Brenda design house, Esi has also collaborated with the likes of Laraaji and Lullabies For Insomniacs, but today we turn attention to her work as art director for the Belgian record label.

Hours of research have contributed to an archive of visual reference points, and ready to inform future projects when called upon, a collagist approach defines the STROOM aesthetic. Fusing these elements with Esi’s own personality and style, the resulting artwork is intentionally evocative of a specific place and time. Perfect for a label dedicated towards excavating the strange sounds of yesteryear.

Ross Paul McEwan

Ross Paul McEwan would probably say he’s a fashion designer first. You might recognise his work for brands like Adidas, but recent endeavours include building a portfolio of music-themed designs, not to mention a few poster commissions for Crack Magazine.

Drawing inspiration from music of the late ’70s and ’80s – he appears to takes cues from the lo-fi photocopy techniques employed by DIY music zines of that era – McEwan is a print designer to the core. With typography always central to the design, the Londoner’s work often hinges on the juxtaposition between bold graphic content and a palpable sense of escapism. Just one man single-handedly trying to distract from the failings of modern society by channelling an essence of dancefloor utopia and general feeling of well-being.

Osian Jenaer

Osian Jenaer might be fairly new to the game, but a garish, 3D-rendered aesthetic has seen him emerge as Childsplay‘s principal designer. Like the party-cum-label, there’s a playful dimension to the Londoner’s output – it’s almost as if the artwork is intended as a warning not to take the contents inside too seriously. That isn’t to say this defines Jenaer as a designer, however, and we look forward to seeing how his style evolves.

“I’ve been designing motion graphics and album artworks for around a year now. After being unable to afford rent and art materials I initially turned to 3D software as a cost effective substitute for designing concepts for sculptures, but quickly realised its potential for producing work quickly and intuitively.

My Process with creating images is concerned with the flattening out of visual information. Although the workflow I use is very 3D oriented and I try to avoid compositing and editing as much as possible, the end goal is often to create a flat, dense web of images and references, like a two dimensional cross section from a three dimensional world. I use images and 3D forms as marks on a surface, often with the goal of avoiding notions of “design” and allowing the perspective of the “camera” in the space to distort the shape and form the work.

Aesthetically I’m drawn to PlayStation2 era graphics, old european cartoons, hardcore/acid iconography and ancient mythologies, and I’ve worked with brands such as Childsplay, Cherryboy, MCQ, Juicy Gang, HUNGER and The Rising Sun Collective.”

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