“The artwork should feel like the insert as opposed to the sleeve, it was meant to represent the vinyl label. I wanted the artwork to feel physical, even in a digital space.” Rory Dewar is currently working as Virgin’s in-house designer and is discussing the process behind the new Jessie Ware record that he’s just designed.
He goes on. “The art was an evolution of Jessie’s last single Overtime which was a white label record. It includes the label copy, catalogue number and lyrics which are only ever seen by those who buy the physical product”. The design is a nod to the mid 90s US alternative rock and rock magazine Ray Gun, and white label records where he recalls, “the track title and artist title would be haphazardly stamped on the vinyl label”.
Rising to the challenge of designers to invoke the physical nostalgia of vinyl records, Rory’s work is a look back, to look forward and he’s noted for contributing to the knee-jerk reaction of lost analogue artwork in a digital music climate. On this particular record, he’s detailing the process which includes a mix of stamps, “some old Letraset sheets I had lying around” and printing and enlarging digital types. From here, he would print and scan new artworks with the previous draft behind it. You can almost hear the glee of an experimental scientist when he continues, “If you look closely you can see the previous draft faintly in the background.” In reality, no-one is probably looking closely enough to notice the forensic nuances, but this is the point. For Rory, this is about his own emotional connection to the work.
His music videos too nod to typography and creative approaches to design. In James Bay’s Wild Lovewhich he directed, we are confronted with layered black and white type, while his SG Lewis video looks at VHS trailers from the past with changing types.
The result is a melancholic nod to the past that also looks to the future. The playful, colourful injections of a west African living room bounds off the page in his work for jazz artist Barney Artist, and the brooding technicolour of Pusha T takes us right back to the cassette rap era aesthetic.
Next, he’s working on Loyle Carner’s album where his aspiration is to recreate the feel of record shop sleeves, each slightly worn, touches, all different to one another. After all, how do you recreate thumbprints, folded corners and light shadows of the real world in the slick, square interfaces of design programmes? “There are actions and shortcuts for pretty much every analogue process out there but they can never replace the real thing,” says Dewar. “I’m currently working on Loyle Carner’s next album in which I am creating multiple versions of the artwork through an analogue process so that each version you see online will be subtly different from the last.”
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