Oscar Torrans designs a handwoven tapestry to give Squid’s new album a folklore feel
Taking inspiration from old European tapestries and a 17th Century illustrated alphabet, Oscar’s crafty design is dedication to the brief at its best.
- Olivia Hingley
- 11 May 2023
In recent months, we’ve seen design really getting back to its handmade, crafty roots. And Oscar Torrans’ visual world for Squid’s new album O Monolith is really the cherry on top. Working on the band's album artwork, posters merch and more, the graphic designer and art director designed a hand-woven tapestry of alphabetic characters, creating a truly unique visual world that pays close attention to the meaning and feel of Squid’s music.
Oscar was brought on to the project after creating T-shirts for their Irish tour, through which they realised they had a shared folklore and ancient ceremonies. In a feature earlier this year, Oscar dove into his interest in Irish folklore, and how it influences his wider design practice. For their album specifically, Squid wanted to delve into the darker side of folklore, with Oscar working from Squid’s summary – “It’s an album about fears, whatever may or may not be beyond the skies, death, rats and bedside tables.”
They decided that they wanted to create a “modern tapestry”. But rather than depicting historical battles – like the famous Bayeux Tapestries retelling of the 1066 Battle of Hastings – Oscar says that he and Squid instead wanted to represent “themes of isolation, environmental emergency, police brutality, existential crises and animism”. He began to compile various visual elements found in old English and European tapestries for inspiration, before stumbling across the 17th Century illustrated alphabet The Comical Hotch Potch. In the alphabet, human figures use their bodies to recreate each letter, and have a distinct resemblance to the characters found in old tapestries.
In what he describes as a “very rare Torrans-Torrans collab”, Oscar enlisted the help of his brother and illustrator Rob Torrans, to redraw the letters with a modern feel, including some scenes of chaos and nightmarish visions. But, after seeing how impressive the simple human alphabet was, Oscar decided it would be most effective as a stand-alone graphic tool. The design was then hand-woven, using block colour and fine black thread to outline. “Rob’s new version of the alphabet grounded it in a contemporary timeline while the woven element gave it a folksy tone alluding to something important,” Oscar summarises. A favourite element of the designers is one of the smaller details; on the centre label of the vinyl sits the alphabet's O figure, which when continuously turning gives the impression of it dancing to the music.
Collaborating with musicians is something Oscar’s come to love for its freedom of expression. Working with a band like Squid who have “interesting and abstract” concepts makes creating a visual world a lot more exciting. “There's a whole world and language that gets created that then lives on in various ways, from peoples' record collection to personal cultural signifiers,” Oscar says. And what’s more, the project represents something of a full circle moment for the designer. “I’ve been designing my own record covers since I was a kid,” he concludes. “I was in bands growing up, but I was more concerned with the album cover than actually finishing a song. So it’s predictable I ended up here.”
GalleryOscar Torrans: O Monolith (Copyright © Oscar Torrans, 2023)
Oscar Torrans: O Monolith (Copyright © Oscar Torrans, 2023)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.