Speaking to the Independent in 2008, Peter Saville – arguably the UK’s most iconic graphic designer, famous for his work with Factory Records – declared that the record sleeve was “a dead art.” We feel he jumped the gun a bit, and I’m not just saying that in light of the so-called vinyl revival. It’s because he failed to take into account both record collectors who would exist without the format’s recent resurgence and those of us who still enjoy, or even prefer, a physical product. Often, the record sleeve can exist as a medium for just as much artistic expression as the music itself.
If you’re exclusively listening to music through cloud streaming – or were downloading illegally pre-Spotify – Saville’s point carries weight, but that’s down to the diminished impact of a tiny thumbnail as opposed to a 12″ record (or even a CD). Designing for the first impression, aesthetics are vital; or, at least, they are if you can see them. This is also applies to event flyers: if you know what you’re looking for, you should be able to differentiate between an event catering to your taste and one that isn’t with a quick glance at the typography.
When the best electronic music traditionally comes from creative communities positioned right on the cutting edge, there’s bound to be a correlation with the quality of the accompanying artwork. In fact, there are certain names that tend to crop up when a label or promoter requires a meticulously crafted visual identity. By no means a definitive list, we’ve taken the time to highlight some of our favourites.
Peter’s namesake (well, minus one ‘l’), but no relation. Inspired by ’70s airbrush art, the lush combination of futurist graphics and pastel shades probably make Patrick Savile‘s signature style the most recognisable and recognised to get a mention here. Rendering digital representations of the airbrush aesthetic, Savile designs achieve a dreamlike quality that feels opulent, spiritual, psychedelic and even romantic. Combining vibrant colourways and texture with mind-altering compositions, his work for Bokeh Versions perfectly captures the essence of the Bristol-based experimental label.
In-house art director for Whities, Alex McCullough has been responsible for the visual dimension to one of the most intriguing and crucial British electronic labels about. Under the tutelage of McCullough and label head Nik Tasker, there’s no debating that the Young Turks subsidiary has risen to the forefront of leftfield electronic music.
Repurposing found imagery – whether it’s the DHL logo or a scaled-up section of an oil painting by Willem Claeszoon Heda – and working closely with artists, his efforts to provide a fitting visual representation of their music in the most “original or unexpected or purest way possible” aren’t only eye-catching and inventive, but feel remarkably fresh. McCullough might have told Crack that he isn’t out to “make work on the apex of design,” but the Whities visual identity confirms his place as a preeminent figure in postmodern flyer and record sleeve design.
Unlike the previous mentions, London-based design studio Our Place places focus on structure, layout and typography. Founded by Ted Heffernan and Alex Gross, the latter has taken their shared passion for type design and applied to the visual identity of Left Alone, the acclaimed party he runs alongside resident DJ Ashton Holland. Boasting some of the most original event flyers we’ve seen for some time, the resulting artwork flawlessly reflects Left Alone’s forward-thinking programming. Also responsible for the visual identity of Secretsundaze offshoot SZE, we expect to see a lot more of this distinctive aesthetic.