C30, C60, C90 go!

Far from disappearing, the humble compact cassette has found fresh favour on the DIY music scene, with the return of tape-only labels being one of the most surprising developments of recent years. However, taking into account the digital ‘loudness wars’ eloquently deliniated in Greg Milner’s Perfecting Sound Forever, which saw the likes of Metallica’s huge fanbase lambasting the ‘everything louder than everything else’ approach, mebbe the humble analogue cassette’s ability to absorb serious overloading and sound simply triffic makes more sense… and then there’s the excellent blank tape insert art, as reflected by this excellent Flickr set.

Monkee Business — coining it in…

Monkee Business, Eric Lefcowitz’s new tome about the world’s first boyband, is now available in a nifty limited edition run of 300 copies that feature a die-cut cover inset with double-sided coins depicting the respective noggins of Messrs Nesmith, Tork, Jones and Dolenz, as used on the regular paperback shown below. The limited edition is available here.

Field Notes – share the love

We love Field Notes notebooks and we love print and this video shows why.

That’s the way to promote your product: show people you love what you do and that you’re competent at it.

Elektra hits 60 — art and commerce in perfect harmony

The label’s masterpiece? Love’s third album, 1967’s Forever Changes.

Elektra records is celebrating its 60th birthday this year, and as far as independently-minded, hugely successful labels are concerned, it’s managed to surf atop six decades of musical mayhem with great aplomb, maintaining a textbook mix of art and commerce — from Love and the Doors, through the Stooges, MC5 and New York Dolls, to Charlotte Gainsbourg, Björk and Cee-Lo Green.

Continue reading

The 45 sleeve — packaging as art

“Sleeves were designed originally to serve as a protective device for records and labels during shipment. In the case of “45” rpm records, however, a device of this nature becomes unnecessary. The raised label area on 45’s fully prevents any harmful contact between the grooved surfaces of records during shipment. Paper separators – such as this sheet – are designed to protect record labels during shipment. They have no other useful function and may be discarded at your convenience…”

Sage record care advice from the folks at RCA Victor, circa 1952.

As you can see from the small selection of 45 sleeves shown above, thankfully, the rest of the music industry — and, indeed, RCA itself — didn’t share this rather quite touching faith in the durability of the company’s new vinyl medium, and quickly turned the humble shipping protector into an art form in its own right.

RCA’s numpty claim is very redolent of those made on behalf of the CD when it was first introduced — most famously on a 1981 episode of the popular TV science show, Tomorrow’s World, wherein the presenters happily smeared a shiny biscuit with jam, then wiped it off and played it, as if proving that it was virtually indestructible! And we know how that ended…

“Off the record, on the QT and very hush-hush”

Ellroy's prime source material - propaganda disguised as a TV tie-in!

Noir icon James Ellroy is well known for his almost seamless blending of fact and fiction, but a recent chance purchase of a copy of 1940s magazine On The QT at a market stall in Bath popped another piece of his creative puzzle into place.

Continue reading

“Greetings, grapple fans…”

With the large-scale pomp of the WWF, it’s easy to forget that wrestling (like football) used to be a resolutely down-at-heel kids-to-grannies spectacle that was one toe-hold away from the carnival. Whether it was Kent Walton intoning “Greetings, grapple fans…” on ITV’s World of Sport, ushering in such unforgettable characters as Kendo Nagasaki, or Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler (who taught Andy Kaufman to wrestle!) broadcasting live from a church hall in West Memphis, thrills aplenty were to be had.

Continue reading

The Killer Inside Me — an anti-hero too far?

Classic pulp art — the US first edition

Classic pulp art — the original US paperback

Michael Winterbottom’s adaptation of noir titan Jim Thompson‘s irredeemably dark fifth novel of 1952, The Killer Inside Me, has been attracting considerable flak for its brutality and amoral tone. Reportedly, even the film’s co-star, Jessica Alba, didn’t make it to the end of the gala showing at the Sundance Film Festival, so unflinching was the portrayal of a violent scene between her character and the work’s anti-hero, Texan Deputy Sheriff, Lou Ford (Casey Affleck).

Continue reading

Cormac McCarthy book covers

PanMacmillan have reissued Cormac McCarthy’s back catalogue. The covers have been given a lovely typographic treatment, beautifully designed by David Pearson.
They’ve been embossed too which makes them feel very desirable when you’re in Waterstones.

Ski Williams — extreme hand-lettering and illustration

In this age of digital derring-do, it’s easy for bands to put together great-looking gig flyers, posters and artwork for their releases. However, sometimes, there’s no substitute for extreme hand-lettering and illustration. With the prices of original 1960s rock posters by such artists as Rick Griffin, Stanley Mouse and Wes Wilson still rising in value (especially since the publication of The Art of Rock), and modern works by the likes of Coop and Kozik attracting serious attention (they’re documented in Art of Modern Rock), it’s time to praise the UK’s greatest current poster artist, Ski Williams.

Continue reading

Flipping Princess

The Princess Bride has got to be one of my desert island DVDs. I already have the 15th anniversary edition, but the 20th is tempting… Got to love this fabulous ambigram cover design…

Princess Bride 20th edition

Princess Bride 20th edition

The Book Cover Archive

If you like design and books and typefaces and imagery and reading then the Book Cover Archive is a great place to spend a little time. In the meantime here are a few of our favourites.

The Noughties as told through US magazine covers

2009’s best cover lies

Great post from Jezebel decoding the best (or should that be worst) cover lies on women’s mags last year. Here’s a couple and the full list is here.

Pop Culture Retreads

There has been trend in 2009 for designers to take slices of popular culture and mash them up with old skool design. It looks like it’s an idea that isn’t running out of steam any time soon as Stéphane Massa-Bidal has shown with the latest incarnation – his series of internet phenoms as 1960’s style Pelican Classics.

Olly Moss was the first one out of the blocks with his revamped film posters and video games as books – all very Saul Bass.

M S Corley gave us books as, wait for it… books. Again heavily influenced by Bass.

It’s a great way for great designers to stretch their legs, but then no one is saying the originals weren’t brilliant either, right? Go here to see a great Pelican books resource.

Creative erm… Barcodes?

Thanks to Neil Mohr for these amazing barcodes from Japanese design company d-barcode.com


The Maggies 2009 best cover winners revealed

Click here to see the results of the publicly voted magazine covers of the year. Really striking and simple-to-navigate microsite too.
Picture 2

Convert your sketches into photo-composite mockups at the touch of a button – or, the electric Jenks!

Sketch an image, hit the submit button, hey presto, a composited photo mock-up sourced from the web, cutout and slapped back together for your visualisation pleasure. Is this software from the future or an elaborate hoax? Cover mock-ups here we come! Check out the rather dry promotional video…

Retro Penguin Archive

Some fascinating imagery on David Pearson’s (ex Penguin) Flickr Gallery, showing some 60-year old experimental book cover layouts, and equally fascinating scans of a note book containing images collated by Penguin’s Production Manager Hans Schmoller into the origins and usage of Penguin devices. Click the image or here for the gallery



That’s LIFE! Well, 1,860 issues of it scanned by Google and free to you anyway

This brilliant archive of  US classic LIFE magazines went online this week thanks to Google. Every page of every issue is here including ads. See the archive here (60s issues are particularly good – great interviews, unbeatable photography, laughably dated ads).


That's (quite literally) LIFE

That's (quite literally) LIFE


Pentagram’s redesign of Tennis from earlier this year, in case you haven’t seen it. Nice.




Glamour Girl

So, as anyone who’s ever worked with me will know, I get very, very excited about US Glamour magazine. Not the handbag-sized UK version but my proper, I-can-only-get-this-on-subscription copy, which arrives with a sexy thump every month on my doormat.

Why I like it? Because it works so damn hard to please its readers. Just check out this cover from Jan 2009…

1 Okay, so the cover star’s Britney. Ho hum. But hang on – she looks normal… cute even. Like the white shirt. And she’s admitting she went off the rails, too? Good work, I want to know more.

2 Colour combos – they do this so well. A fresh, clean cover, lots of white space, whammed up with hot pinks and fire-engine reds. It’s tasty and it’s screaming ‘buy me’.

3 Cover lines – now this is the science bit. How much do you want to read this issue? How well do they know their readers?  ‘100 perfect outfits that are already in your closet’ – yes please. ‘The #1 Thing That Makes Sex Very, Very Good’ – sex and clothes? Yay. ‘8 Slim Down Tricks Smart Women Swear By’ – clothes and sex and getting thin and you’re saying I’m a smart woman too. Newsagent, here’s my money. Please let me be a Glamour Girl forever.
Bookmark and Share


Delete cover image, print towel

That tricky beach magazine distribution problem finally solved. I could see this working for Sky Movies magazine at Cannes.
Bookmark and Share

playboy towel