Whether it is a high-end album cover or grungy rock poster, art and design has always been closely married to music. From vinyl to A-track to cassette to CDs, it has been a relationship that has changed over time. But if there’s one consistency, it is that this relationship has always lived primarily in the world of print.
The print world has allowed both the music and art to flourish. But over the past decade, many have questioned its longevity. Would music digitalization and the way in which it is sold kill the need to go to a record store, and album art along with it?
Recently I purchased the self-titled debut album from Broken Bells, an eclectic collaboration between Danger Mouse and The Shins’ James Mercer. The result of this collaboration is a unique and tranquil sound that is hard to turn off. And just as engaging as the music itself is the distinct visual world artist/designer Jacob Escobedo has created for the music to live in. This world flourishes in both print and digital in innovative ways that give hope to a prolonged life of art in the music industry.
Rather than just a typical album cover and poster that exist in music’s past, Escobedo (who also happens to be the Creative Director for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim) and the band have created a singular, visual style that is executed across series of engaging tactile print pieces. From a series of posters to a deluxe box set full of various print pieces, each piece is a different work of art. While all of the print work is fascinating enough, the work gets really interesting when it moves to the digital world.
If you purchase the album on iTunes, you receive an application that contains several contents including a secret song, credits and band photos. You also receive a visualizer. Much like the standard iTunes visualizer, the music is interpreted by various visuals on screen—except, in this case, the visuals are Escobedo’s artwork. The artwork moves to the music and interacts with itself in ways impossible in print. It enhances the listening experience and even allows the print work to be looked at in a new light.
As the innovative Broken Bells album demonstrates, the marriage between art and music not only lives on, but also allows listeners to experience each in ways we never have before. The relationship is not gone—it’s thriving.
All advancements lead to opportunities. Artists and designers are now able to think about their work in ways they never have before. No longer static, no longer grounded on a canvas or piece of paper—the possibilities are endless.