The cat in the spacesuit gracing the The Klaxons’ Surfing the Void was one of the best album cover designs of recent years, combining our twin loves of extraterrestial travel and domestic pets. We spoke to Richard Robinson, the designer who has also worked with Soulwax, Jamie Woon and Friendly Fires about his process and his heroes – oh and we’re giving away a limited edition SONOS music player he has produced. Sweet.
Tell us about your process when designing album artwork. Are you constantly listening to the songs while you’re working?
At the beginning of the project I will tend to listen to the music quite a lot, but not over and over, I can’t do that even with my favourite bands. I often need to leave the studio when I’m coming up with ideas, they rarely tend to happen whilst I’m sat at the computer, I’ll only start when I have a clear idea about what it is I want to do, otherwise I just stare at the screen aimlessly.
How much input do the bands have into the process? Is that something you encourage or does that make it quite difficult?
Generally most artist/bands like to play a big part in the process, the occasional few might just let me do as I wish but that’s not very often. Sometimes it’s a good thing not having them involved, but that only works if they’re very open to my ideas. It can actually produce some of the best results when you’re working closely with the bands as they’ll push you in an unexpected direction.
Who’s your favourite album artwork designer of all time? What is about their work you love?
Hipgnosis. They created some of the most iconic sleeves of all time, and much of the charm is because it was pre-photoshop so they’d have these fantastical ideas that they had to actually create for real, whether that be a man on fire (Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here) or melting a polaroid (Peter Gabriel), they always managed to create iconic covers.
Which project that you have worked on did you find most challenging and why?
They all offer up a different set of challenges, sometimes this is simply that you don’t have the budget to do what you want and other times it can be a technical issue. When I was working on the Soulwax artwork (with Trevor Jackson), we spent ages trying to get the right level of legibility with the hidden text, as it was a fine line of creating the optical illusion and not seeing anything at all.
It would also vary depending on the stock that it was on, and the distance you were from the object, so we literally did hundreds of different tests, but it was worth it in the end.
Album artwork seems to be enjoying a renaissance at the moment, why do think this is?
In London it definitely feels that way, if you walk into Rough Trade it’s booming, vinyl everywhere, but outside of London, in the smaller suburbs, there’s hardly anywhere to buy vinyl still, I think there’s room for expansion!
I really like that the labels are now starting to release vinyl with a free download so you have a digital copy; you get the nice big cover artwork and you can still have it for your iPod too.
WIN WIN WIN!
This month, we are giving you the chance to win an exclusive SONOS PLAY:3, designed by Richard Robinson. Richard took his inspiration from SONOS to design this bespoke piece of working art, reflecting the excitement of sharing great music, out loud.
The PLAY:3 compact wireless HiFi System (£259) is easy to set up; simply place the system in any room and discover a whole new world of tracks controlled by a free downloadable app for your smartphone or tablet device. Play all your music from your iTunes library and over 100,000 radio stations, as well as a host of music services such as Spotify – anywhere in the home. For more information please visit www.sonos.com
For your chance to win this unique piece of music art, just answer the following question:
Richard designed the cover for The Klaxons album Surfing the Void but what was the name of the band’s first album released in 2007?
Email your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and contact details. The competition closes at noon next Friday, February 10, when a winner will be selected at random. (Sorry – UK entries only!)