Album art is one of many crucial elements in cementing legendary albums in the music industry.
They define how we look at a particular album and are key to first impressions and music discovery. The most notable album artworks have earned their rightful place in music history. The Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover made St John’s Wood in London a timeless tourist attraction. Similarly, Beyonce’s tantalizing photography concept in her Renaissance album art was able to merge Vogue and music successfully. These two albums, among others, demonstrate the role of cover art in creating a memorable album.
Today’s music is mainly experienced online. The most popular platforms, Spotify and Apple Music, put album art covers at the front and center of the design interface. Design is one of the key elements of the online user experience leading to high demand for visual artists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there were 254,000 graphic design positions in the United States in 2020. These all played a critical role in various industries such as music.
One reason for this is how accessible digital media training has become. With the rise of remote learning, it’s no longer necessary to take an on-campus degree to enter the industry. Online digital media programs at top institutions are NASAD accredited, while also being 100% coursework. This gives digital artists much more flexibility to create their own portfolio of work as they train.
Musicians seek the expertise of these trained digital media artists to align their design needs with their artistic vision. Highly skilled visual communicators can take full advantage of the growing opportunities in the digital landscape. Digital media professionals can keep up with the ever-evolving creative industry and take advantage of flexibility in design.
There is room for these professionals to forge a new path in design with abundant opportunities to merge a passion for art and music. New technological developments and fresh aesthetic sensibilities have changed the way we consume music. There is now a need for creative thinking and digital visual strategy in the music industry — and album art is a great way of showcasing that.
You can narrow your design options by focusing on your identity as an artist or band. Whether you’re a rock band, a country singer, or a pop artist, your identity should shine through your album art. It should capture the attention of your intended audience.
You can likewise take notes from the digital presence you’ve already established and maintained. Figuring out your identity and the key elements of your music can help you find the proper subject for your album art, whether you choose photography, typography, or abstract art as your primary medium.
Because music often feels intangible, it’s helpful to harness the power of visual elements to evoke specific responses. You can look into color strategies such as color psychology and color schemes to create dynamic visuals. For instance, monochromatic schemes can tap a certain mood or signal the listener that the artist wants the music to speak for itself.
Using design concepts in your album art, such as minimalism, grunge, or retro art, will also give listeners an idea of the music on the album.
Your album art will heavily rely on the medium you use. Whether you decide on a photo, illustration, or graphic, the medium will determine the strength of emotional connection you will have with your audience to an extent.
For example, the famous cover album of Nirvana’s Nevermind, which features a baby swimming after a dollar, has sparked timeless nostalgia and continues to be iconic 25 years after its release. Some albums have also utilized digital alterations of paintings to convey a particular message.
Collaboration and creativity are vital to creating unique and timeless cover art. The visual component of how we enjoy music is increasingly recognized as an integral part of our online listening experience.
After designing a one-of-a-kind artwork, it’s also important to share it on the right channels. Vampr is a great place to get feedback on your album artwork. Connect with other musicians, producers, designers, and more and ask what they think. Are they getting the messaging you were trying to convey? You might even offer a perk for anyone sharing valuable feedback with you.
Remember, artwork just like music is subjective. Feedback is helpful, but you are the one that the artwork needs to resonate with long term. Create something you are proud of and release it into the world!
Not sure how to do that? You can make sure you have all bases covered with our Music release checklist for emerging musicians.
By Queenie Kirk, edited by Leesa Snider