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
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