My Type of Music | September 2007
50 Cent is grabbing his head with both hands in despair on the cover of his new album Curtis. And with good reason. If he holds true to his promise he should quit the music business altogether, because – at least in the United States – Kanye West’s new album Graduation has outsold his.
If we look at the covers of both albums, it’s easy to see who wins on creativity. The Curtis album has a tired generic black’n’white cover sporting the current hip hop cliché type style: blackletter, in this case Cloister Black/Old English Text. Yawn.
Kanye West on the other hand collaborated with Takashi Murakami, the celebrated Warhol-esque Japanese designer of Louis Vuitton fame, who created a colourful, witty and atypical cover for Graduation. No type in sight, but hey, it’s art!
… so what’s that obnoxious Parental Advisory sticker doing there then?
Nothing earth-shattering going on on Annie Lenox - Songs of Mass Destruction, but I wanted to point out the intricate copperplate script that spells ‘Songs’. Up until recently one needed to hire a skilled calligrapher/letterer to produce such swashilicious beauties, yet thanks to the automated wizardry of OpenType the same complex lettering is possible with digital type. At work here we see Burgues Script by Argentinean script master Alejandro Paul.
The cover for Babyshambles - Shotter’s Nation looks as shambolic as the music the band plays and as its front man Pete Doherty. A perfect match. The band logo is a hand drawn rendition of Pretorian, an old decorative face.
The moody cover for Bettye LaVette - The Scene of The Crime oozes noir sensibility and reminds me of the classic 60s jazz album covers – think Blue Note Records and the likes. I’m torn when it comes to the setting of the type. Futura Extra Bold is stylistically correct, and the first and last name of the artist interlock nicely, but why didn’t they fix the kerning in ‘LaVette’, especially in the ‘Ve’ pair? Such a shame…
Daughtry is obviously an album cover for an artist that’s desperately trying to shed his American Idol past and earn some street credibility. The grime and glow on Engravers Gothic/ITC Blair/Sackers Gothic, the white scratches, the greenish textured image, the eerie blurred band members in the back – it’s all there, and it’s actually quite impressive how polished they managed to make faux grunge look.
Throughout the booklet of Foo Fighters - Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace the pages are divided horizontally. Clever juxtapositions of images create unexpected associations. And yes, the latest craze of very heavy, constructed geometric display faces rears its ugly head. Well, to be honest I kinda like it here, but I’ve seen so many poor and derivative examples on Typophile’s Type Identification Board that I’ve built up an instinctive resistance to this style of lettering. My FontShop-writer-partner-in-crime Stephen Coles did what he does best and compiled a handy list of typefaces in that genre. FontShop offers – in no particular order:
Black Boton Bold (Creative Alliance)
Mostra Black (Mark Simonson Studio)
Blocks (Creative Alliance)
Alpha Bloc Sculpture (The Font Bureau, Inc.)
FF Extra (FontFont)
Acton (Device Fonts)
Available elsewhere are:
Corpulent (Suitcase Type Foundry)
NB Block (Neubauladen)
Frank, Deuce, Neutrino (Neutura)
Bebit (Cyrillic version of Milton Glaser’s Baby Teeth) (ParaType)
Parkitecture (Jeff Levine)
Wagner Silhouette (Nick’s Fonts)
Rody & Lazar (Discourse Type)
Cooter (Silas Dilworth)
The odd one out this edition is the conceptual cover for Hard-Fi - Once Upon The Time In The West. Of course the “No cover art.” is a paradox, because the decision to use centered ITC Avant Garde Gothic caps in black and white and in three different sizes on a flat yellow background makes it cover art. But let’s not get entangled in a philosophical debate here.
Ian Siegal - Swagger has a fitting album cover for a collection of original blues numbers and reinterpretations of songs popularized by John Lee Hooker and Little Richard. The deceptively simple colour scheme with saturated, vibrant hues is quite powerful, and makes the mundane scene come to life. The cover features ITC Bodoni Seventy-Two, the largest optical size available in this very faithful interpretation of Giambattista Bodoni’s classic serif face. Read the second instalment of An Introduction to Type Design for more information on optical size masters.
The fairytale cover for Kate Nash - Made of Bricks is as lovely and refreshing as her music, with some nice child-like hand lettering. Look, horseys!
Múm - Go go smear the poison ivy’s cover looks similarly naive at first sight, but when looking closely the collage with pencil sketches actually has a creepy undercurrent going. Plus boy scouts make me feel a bit queasy; never been a fan of paramilitary organizations.
KT Tunstall plays the rawk chick on the cover for her new album Drastic Fantastic. The white-grey-black with skin colours is very stylish. Combine a dramatic pose with square constructed type in 3D and you get a very theatrical cover, even verging on Hollywood-style. The monumental type used for the artist name reminds me of the delightfully over-the-top ITC Pioneer No. 2. Plus you just gotta love that mirror guitar. Wikkid…
Unexpected? I think not, Lumidee. More like uninteresting, uninspired, unoriginal.
And I’m neither happy with Manu Chao - La radiolina. His album covers have always had that self-made vibe to them, but in this instance it looks like he really made the cover himself. Composition is non-existent with all these separate elements floating about, and the typography is laughingly bad. Arial? Qué? indeed…
Look what we’ve got here on this beautiful, dreamy cover for Melissa Etheridge - The Awakening. It may look like Bank Gothic but it’s not. I think this must be my first real life sighting of Christian Schwartz’ FF Oxide. Like I wrote in my review for Typographer.org two years ago, ‘It obviously doesn’t strive to be a ground-breaking design; it’s content with being a relaxed, well-balanced, pleasant little family with just a smidgen of playfulness. (…) If anything, this release proves that certain designers have stuff “lying around on their hard drive” that’s simply better than what other people release as if it was God’s gift to typography’.
This minimalistic solution for Oceansize - Frames visualizes the album title nicely, as the invisible character shapes ‘frame’ the counters. Those inside shapes are even more important for reading than the actual character shapes themselves, something that will be elaborated on in the next episode of the Introduction to Type Design series.
I don’t really know why I included Siouxsie - Mantaray. Maybe because it’s a darn purdy combination of colourful butterflies and other assorted insects with Siouxsie’s equally colourful make-up.
This is just plain funny. Calling your album The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter already betrays a healthy sense of humour, but putting a Roman legionnaire’s helmet on the cover with Bodoni caps at the top really brings it home. Nice one.
We sign off with albums by two beautiful and talented women. The Art Nouveau-style type on Vanessa Paradis - Divinidylle matches perfectly the Klimt-like portrait of the artist. Although the type is understated, it efficiently supports the atmosphere of the image.
Zap Mama - Supermoon uses two typefaces that I really like – Dalliance and Platelet – but frankly, not only is it a complete mismatch but the designer does absolutely nothing with them. This is a clear case of white tigers: using hip cool fonts does not necessarily make your design hip and cool. Giving it some thought does.