What’s the significance of design in music and will music cover art eventually be dematerialized or reinvented in a digital age?
We are moving towards a reality where “thumbnails-as-cover art” prevail. I-Tunes’ version of an album’s cover is a 16k, 150px image. Even though, these are enough in most cases to be able to tell which album you are listening to, they are not quite enough to make the distinction between exceptional art and cheap DIY collage. As a result, this gradual but factual deterioration of music cover art makes a lot of people unhappy; whether they are designers, musicians, conscious label owners or just music lovers. The main problem these people seem to have with this deterioration is that the tangibility and materiality was taken out of the equation leading to seemingly less personal experiences connected to music. As Jon Wozencroft puts it:
“You need some kind of holistic, reconciling agent alongside the music, some editorial aspect that functions as a gentle storytelling device alongside the invisible force of the music” (Shaughnessy, 2008).
Some have already acknowledged the problem and attempted to find ways in which the lost tangibility of the record could be recaptured in a digital equivalent. Not only because it seems to be the way forward, but also because the new generation, not familiar with certain sensations from the past, finds a new type of digital materiality through their computers and handheld electronic devices. While some of the recent attempts at digitalizing the lost glory of the record sleeve are at the very least interesting, no universal plan exists that has the possibility to work on a wide array of different devices provided the experience remains the same. We do not need digital album covers as attention grabbers. What we need is a complete and meaningful interactive experience to accompany the music we love. We need a medium in which to contain the great power of visualization and storytelling, a medium that can deliver authentic and thought out album cover art, in conjunction with the music.
Research essay at Issuu