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John Foster
Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Rob Walker
Personal Packaging
02.05.14

Fondly revisiting the look and feel of the mixtape.

Debbie Millman
Terry Teachout
Rick Poynor
From the Archive: Brian Eno, Artist of Light
Rick Poynor
Soft Machine’s Dysfunctional Mechanism
07.29.13

An alternative cover for the French release of The Soft Machine’s first album alludes to the history of the machine in 20th-century art.

Observed
Classic Albums Reimagined as Books
03.26.13

Christophe Gowans re-imagines well-known album covers as book jackets.

Observed
Speculative Sound Performance
11.26.12

On Tuesday, November 27, at Apexart in NYC: an exercise in sonic branding.

Rob Walker
On Dapper Dan
Rick Poynor
True Stories: A Film about People Like Us
Rick Poynor
The Art of Punk and the Punk Aesthetic
10.14.12

Punk has two new graphic histories: Punk: An Aesthetic and The Art of Punk. What conclusions do they draw?

Rob Walker
Listening to Retail
Rick Poynor
It’s Smart to Use a Crash Test Dummy
Rick Poynor
Design a Cover for Eno’s Music for Films
07.06.12

LA architect John Bertram has set a competition to design an alternative sleeve for Music for Films by Brian Eno.

Michael Bierut
I Love the 80s
06.04.12

Miami Vice: the quintessential postmodern design artifact, in all its glory and all its disgrace.

Rick Poynor
From the Archive: Graphic Metallica
Debbie Millman
Roman Mars
04.06.12

Radio producer Roman Mars discusses the connection between ’zines and radio, why he ditched science and the reason he named his show “99% Invisible”.

Debbie Millman
John Flansburgh
03.30.12

John Flansburgh on being the son of a modernist architect, designing album covers for They Might Be Giants and of course, making music.

John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: Continuum’s 33 1/3 Series
10.28.11

The 33 1/3 books about classic albums are a perfect example of how design can help focus an editorial idea.

Michael Bierut
At the Movies with Javier Mariscal
Adrian Shaughnessy
Minotaurs in Suburban England
11.09.10

English designer Vaughan Oliver met Adrian Shaughnessy to show him preliminary work on a deluxe Pixies box set called Minotaur.

Rob Walker
Hearing Things
09.10.10

I have seen the future of rock and roll, and it’s merch. Of course, band-branded merchandise has been a major part of the music business, big and small, for years.

Rob Walker
The Song Decoders
07.16.10

Pandora, is convinced it can guide you, to music that you like. The premise is that your favorite songs can be stripped to parts and reverse-engineered.

Rob Walker
Hitting Rewind on the Cassette Tape
04.23.10

The romance associated with vinyl seems to apply to its longtime analog rival, the cassette.

Alexandra Lange
The Tigertones
09.01.09

I was thrilled by the metion of the Tigertones in this week's episode of Mad Men.

Teddy Blanks
Teddy Blanks on Figurines
08.18.09

Significant Objects is a much-discussed experiment conducted by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker. This story by Teddy Blanks is recorded as an MP3...

Teddy Blanks
Significant Objects: Porcelain Scooter
08.17.09

Significant Objects is a much-discussed experiment conducted by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker. The fourth of five stories is by Teddy Blanks...

Steven Heller
Mad Music
06.08.09

In 1962, I spent hours listening to Mad magazine’s first LP (Big Top Records), Mad “Twists” Rock ‘N’ Roll. Owning the record made me feel like I was part of a club, which latter evolved into the sardonic, ironic sixties youth culture. It brings me back to a time before art, design, and humor had to be sophisticated to be good.

Adam Harrison Levy
An Interview With Philip Glass
05.12.09

In 2005, Adam Harrison Levy interviewed Philip Glass for a BBC documentary film about Chuck Close. Glass was seated in front of the monumental painting Phil, 1969. This is their exchange.

Mark Lamster
Theirs Go to Twaalf
04.14.09

Meet Lamster (no relation), Belgium's ascendant metal goliath.

Mark Lamster
Michael Jackson, Automotive Designer
02.17.09

I know, Michael Jackson has done some terrible things. Tax evasion. Absconding with the Beatles catalog. Child molestation. We Are the World. But this — is design even the word for it?

Mark Lamster
A Horrible Machine
12.25.08

Check out my essay on the classic scout song "Dunderbeck" in the latest issue (no. 6) of the always gnaw-worthy Meatpaper.

Tom Vanderbilt
Fanfare for the Common Commuter
10.22.08

I’ve become a regular morning commuter on the city’s splendid Metro — the first in the world to employ only rubber tires on its cars. It didn’t take long for me to notice, as the trains departed, a curious trilogy of tones that echoed, along with the hum of the engine, through the concrete-chambered station. The notes, I realized with a start, were the beginning of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man.

Debbie Millman
Michael Hodgson
04.11.08

Michael Hodgson is a DJ and a designer and is co-founder of the design firm Ph.D.

Debbie Millman
Gordon Hull
03.07.08

An all-music show with DJ and designer Gordon Hull, co-founder of the firm Surface to Air.

Dmitri Siegel
Taking Things Seriously II
12.13.07


Adrian Shaughnessy
Tony Wilson: The Postmodern Mythmaker
08.14.07

Tony Wilson, founder of Factory records, died August 10. Wilson had many claims to fame: he was a successful television presenter; a music industry impresario of flawed and maverick genius; and he was one of the shrewdest patrons of graphic design there has ever been.

Liz Brown
Phil Spector vs. The Wall of Sound
08.06.07

Until 1966, producer Phil Spector was an unstoppable machine, churning out "symphonies for little kids." Then came "River Deep, Mountain High," where the combination of Tina Turner's raw, unbridled passion and Spector's orchestral swoon was a total disaster. Spector's career was over, but the song goes on and on.

Richard Turley
Off the Grid
07.07.07

When you abandon most of the rules, how do you define a mistake? How to art direct a newspaper from the middle of the muddy Glastonbury music festival.

John Corbett
Sun Ra, Street Priest and Father of D.I.Y. Jazz
06.22.07

Before the 1950s, artist-owned record companies were unheard of, but Sun Ra pioneered the idea along with a couple of other musicians and composers. Sun Ra and Alton Abraham helped define the do-it-yourself ethic that came to be a central part of the American independent music industry, designing and in some cases manufacturing the covers themselves. In the process, they maintained a previously unimaginable degree of control over the look and content of their jazz releases.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Are JPEGs the New Album Covers?
04.11.07

An audio file with a thumbnail JPEG of the album cover will never have the resonance — not to mention the commercial value — of a well-made piece of packaging. But if the corporate providers of downloadable music have their way, this is the future of recorded music. Who ever had a love affair with a JPEG?

Michael Bierut
Cheap Music and Commercial Art
02.16.07

You wouldn't know it from Dreamgirls, but Motown staff songwriters Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland were examples of how art is created under pressure.

Jessica Helfand
I'm Not Ready to Make Nice
02.12.07


Michael Bierut
All That Jazz: Posters by Niklaus Troxler
01.30.07

Niklaus Troxler's jazz posters can be viewed as a single, self-initiated project that has developed over five decades, a body of work with few precedents. Spanning an astonishing range of styles, the posters are united by a single thing: the passion of a single man who serves at once as designer and client.

Jessica Helfand
The Karaoke Effect
01.19.07

The lure of American Idol, in these early weeks, lies in precisely this shaky space: that illusory bubble populated by thousands of fame-seekers who fervently believe in their own righteous, if highly fictional talent. It's cultural fallout. Just as the karaoke singer imagines him or herself live and in concert before the screaming fans, so, too, does the illusion persist once the microphone is turned off.

Alissa Walker
War Is Over! If You Want It
12.29.06

When the star of the documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon is asked by a reporter what he thinks Nixon should do to end the Vietnam War, Lennon stares incredulously into the camera. "He should declare peace." As if this was the most obvious solution in the world.

Michael Bierut
Vinyl Fetish
10.09.06

This past weekend, I went down in the basement and brought up three heavy boxes of records that hadn't seen the light of day in more than 20 years. A meditation on the joys of vinyl.

Dmitri Siegel
More Rules
10.01.06

The artwork for Beck's new album The Information immediately brings to mind the work of Sol LeWitt and the question of where the creative act is situated: in making the work or making the rules.

Dmitri Siegel
Broadcast vs. Broadband
03.09.06

Viral video is on the rise, spreading from broadband to broadcast and back again. What are the opportunities for designers in this new genre?

Michael Bierut
Wilson Pickett, Design Theorist, 1942 - 2006
01.22.06

Wilson Pickett's advice on hitmaking, "Harmonize, then customize," would make good advice for any designer.

Michael Bierut
Designing Twyla Tharp's Upper Room
11.06.05

Jennifer Tipton's lighting design for Twyla Tharp's dance piece, In the Upper Room, creates a magical experience for the audience and brings her often unseen art to the foreground.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Self-Initiated House Music
08.04.05

It is perhaps stretching definitions to say that Julian House has become a musician, but with the help of sampling technology and an array of digital audio tools, he makes striking and compelling audio assemblages, which have strong stylistic parallels with his collage-based graphic design.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Decoding Coldplay's X&Y
06.08.05

At a time when invisible data streams of binary information fed straight to our desktops are doing away with the need for album covers, it's odd to find a record sleeve as the subject of media comment and speculation. Odder still that the album cover in question — Coldplay's X&Y — should contain binary data as its central motif. Prophetic or what? The X&Y cover is agreeably eye-catching. You wouldn't call it a classic, but it has an unexpected severity that lifts it above the anodyne and cosmeticised design currently favoured by multi-platinum selling artists. It has dark echoes of Peter Saville's ephocal Factory covers.

Rick Poynor
But Darling of Course it’s Normal: The Post-Punk Record Sleeve
05.20.05

There have been collections of post-punk music and now, finally, there is British music critic Simon Reynolds' 500-page history of the genre from 1978 to 1984. It's a brilliant book. He argues that post-punk music's explosion of creativity equals the golden age of popular music in the mid-1960s, but that it has never received its full due. I think he's right.

Lawrence Weschler
The Aural As An Architectonic Challenge
03.03.05

What are the people over at Transom.org up to? As it happens, this month is a very good time to pay them a visit: for the next several weeks, Walter Murch — the phenomenally smart and inspired film and sound editor — will be continuing to hold court there.

Tom Vanderbilt
Rise and Fall of Rock and Roll Graphic Design
02.14.05

Has heavy metal graphic design run its course? Is the band logo as a species dead? And is there much of a future for the graphic representation of popular music itself?

Rick Poynor
Theory with a Small "t"
04.17.04

A critical writing determined by the need to shape practice will be limited in the cultural insights it can offer. This is the last thing that design writing needs when ways to engage a wider public could be opening up.


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