Graphic Design / Photography / Project Highlight

Case Study: Joe Seager – Yesteryear Album Sleeve

Now and then, I get a request for a project that really excites me. Something that’s so different than anything I’ve worked on recently that I simply cannot say no. I’d like to share with you how my last project came about, and how I worked with musician Joe Seager to create his latest album cover.

Joe’s original brief was to show a reference to life challenges faced, overcoming difficulties in the past as well as happy memories and showing hope for the future. This was to give a taste of some of the subjects he was communicating in his songs, creating a ‘mood’ to reflect the story of the album.

This project needed to be handled quite differently to most of the other stuff I work on – when I’m working for a brand, for example, I would need to delve into the person behind it, the core values, the image they need to portray, and the customer demographic. In this instance, I wasn’t selling a brand, or a company; this needed to represent the product, and the music itself. So the approach I took had to be different, too.

After speaking to Joe at length about his own ideas, and getting some background on his music, I listened to the album, making notes of words and phrases that came to mind. Once I had these, I could begin drafting out some ideas, putting together images, colours etc.

Working with Joe, we talked through some of these, and I asked him to provide me with some of his own images and photographs; memorable moments, favourite toy from childhood, favourite photo, anything which brought a special memory.

These things all came together as a kind of portrait to which I can add my design elements, and this, for me, is where the real fun begins.

Collection of starter images

The design process

Now for a disclaimer: I’ve worked with Joe before, and have created his previous album and singles covers, so I’m aware of the kind of designs Joe likes, and I’ve got a good feel for how I can use my designs to compliment Joe’s musical style.

For this design, I wanted to make sure that I used a different style from his last album, because although the genre is the same, this one had a completely different ‘mood’, and I felt it was important to encapsulate that. I wanted his fans to be able to pick it up and know instantly the kind of thing they would be listening to. Like a book, every album tells its own story.

From our conversations, we came to the idea of creating a kind of dream sequence using the images he had chosen, travelling through important events from his life in sepia tones, kind of like a montage of memories.

By using muted colours and transparent layers, I was able to highlight these images, while using the background to bring in more subtle layers to show other elements, such as the piano keys and the written notes etc.

I hadn’t really got a firm idea about the colours at this point – I knew I wanted them to be quite subtle, but I hadn’t made any decisions about how to use colour overlays. But sometimes, once everything is in place and you start the process of playing with the design, the decision is almost made for you, and that’s what happened in this instance.

The finished design

I think we achieved the result we wanted very well – from the original concept, we managed to encapsulate the style of the music, and tell the story of the album.

It always works really well when you are able to work with a client who has their own ideas of what they want to achieve, yet trusts you to deliver without difficulty, and that’s how it was with Joe. This album cover was a result of designer and client working together, from a clear brief, and willing to communicate and contribute ideas throughout the whole project.

'Run With It' Single Sleeve
'In Reverie' Single Sleeve
'Yesteryear' Single Sleeve
Photography / Web Design

Why you should be using professional images for your website

Used effectively, images can do much more than make your work look pretty. They can help gain more traffic, and therefore more conversions. So it’s vitally important that the images you choose for your website are of the very best quality. In this article, I’d like to share with you some tips and advice on what works, and what doesn’t, when it comes to placing images on your website.

Why do I need images on my website at all?

As humans, we are hard wired to respond to visual stimuli. Without even realising, our brains process the images we see on screen, and then make the decision based on that image, whether or not we want to read the text. So having a website that’s purely text, with little or no imagery, means that our visitors will be much more likely to ignore the text and click away in search of something more stimulating.

This is especially important to remember if you’re an e-commerce business – people will make their decisions based on what your products look like, before they even read the description or check the price. And if your images don’t appeal to them, or spark a need in them, they simply will not buy.

Emotional response

Your website is your biggest sales tool. And it’s worth remembering that all sales are based on emotion. Therefore, every piece of content on your site should be able to appeal to your customers emotions, in order for them to trust you and buy from you.

The images you use are a big part of this. When you select the images for your website, ask yourself what story it is telling, and how that story will make your customers feel.

For some industries, that might be harder than others. For example – what if you’re selling access platforms, or manufacturing computer components?

Well, the key in these kinds of products is to gloss over the actual process of manufacture, and instead think about the end product, and how it will aid your customers. Who will you customers be? And what will they gain from using or buying your product? Those are the images to focus on. People actually using your end product, and being satisfied with the results they bring.

Using images can help you to make your customers feel – and create a desire for them to buy. They’re shouldn’t just be there to look pretty, as with every part of your online marketing, they should be doing a job, working towards turning your browsers into leads.

Good photography

I’m going to say something rather controversial here; when it comes to taking photographs for your website, mobile phones can be the enemy. Yes, I understand that phones right now have fantastic cameras, and are capable of taking high quality images – but that doesn’t make you a photographer, there’s much more to consider than just whipping out your phone and shooting a few product images. If you take photos in this way, they will simply not be professional enough to use on your website.

Of course, they do have their place – they can be great for candid shots for your social media, in telling your story on Facebook or Twitter, and vital for platforms such as Instagram. In these areas – knock yourself out! You should absolutely be taking advantage of your phone’s technology for that.

But if you want to make an impression with your website, put your phone away. It really won’t benefit you.

Image subject

If you’re sourcing your own images, taking them yourself, or hiring a photographer to do it for you, it’s worth spending some time thinking about the subject of the image. Whichever option you choose, you will likely need some sort of monetary outlay, whether that’s for equipment, stock image purchase, or professional photography costs, so getting it absolutely right is essential.

If you are a service-based business, your needs will be very different than if you’re selling actual products, as you’ll have to be more imaginative in the type of image you are using. A music teacher, for example, might want to use images portraying the teaching process, and include photographs or videos of him and his students in a lesson. Whereas a specialist guitar shop (just to keep to a theme here!) would want great quality images of the instruments they are selling.

Your own images

If you know your way around a camera, or know someone who does, then you might feel confident in taking them images yourself – but it’s important that you learn the correct techniques for photographing your products, as you could potentially damage your whole brand if you get it wrong.

Some things to consider are:

  • Choosing the right subject to shoot
  • Getting the background right
  • Setting up lighting to make the best of your subject
  • Image editing

You will also need to make sure that your images are consistent throughout the site, as following a basic theme will help your website flow.

Stock images

If you’re not looking for product images, and are not in a position to take them yourself or hire a photographer, you could think about using stock images. As a rule, stock images are useful, but if you get it wrong, they can look pretty awful. But, used right, they can work for some types of industry very well, so don’t dismiss them altogether.

Bear in mind that if you are going down the stock route, you can either choose a free site, or a subscription site. If your website is image-heavy, you might benefit by paying for a better choice of high-quality images. And beware of using images which have been heavily used elsewhere – your readers will notice!

A designer’s view

As a graphic designer, the subject of images comes up a lot in my work. It’s often a big part of a branding project, and feature heavily in many websites, as well as printed brochures and material. I try to advise my clients to the best of my ability on how and where to use photographs (although I don’t always get listened to!), and would be happy to chat to you about your particular needs, including the types of photographs you should be using, and the best way to source them. Please feel free to talk to me if you’re not sure which direction to take.