Music

Steven Heller
When Good Humor Ice Cream was Hot
The audio rebranding of Good Humor ice cream.


Jessica Helfand + Hrishikesh Hirway
Episode 131: Word by Word
With Hrishikesh Hirway: games and puzzles, The West Wing Weekly, soap operas, Home Cooking


Steven Heller
Command Records’ Design Distinction
Command Records covers are striking for the graphic and branding power of the abstract format.


Steven Heller
Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die
New York-based (former musician, banker, and collector) Andrew Krivine is arguably the most passionate Punk music devotee in the world.


Debbie Millman
Lucy Wainwright Roche
A conversation with Lucy Wainwright Roche about her musical family, her career as a singer-songwriter, and her musical tastes.


Jessica Helfand + Ellen McGirt
S7E12: Janelle Monáe
Janelle Monáe is a singer, songwriter, actor, and producer.


Debbie Millman
David Lee Roth
On this epsiode Debbie talks to David Lee Roth about his childhood, about his long career and his new skincare business, and about how he has avoided crashing, like so many other rock stars. “To be perfectly fair, I’ve had my wild excesses.”


Steven Heller
The Rolling Thunder Revue Unreview
Steven Heller on the power artists and designers have to move us.


Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
S5E12: Dmitri Siegel
Dmitri Siegel is vice president of global brand at Sonos.


Debbie Millman
Shirley Manson
Debbie talks to singer-songwriter Shirley Manson about her career, her music, and the long road that got her where she is today.


Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
Episode 85: Midsummer Music
Musical theater, soundtracks, Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Rachmaninoff’s Cello Sonata in D Minor, and more.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Paul Moore
“Streaming has shocked new life into the music industry and the vinyl we all hold dear to our hearts. Now the platform is finding a new generation of ardent fans. As designers, that’s where we can influence a movement.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Emily Batson
“A key part of my job is collaboration. I enjoy the negotiation of finding a concept that truly works.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Frank Ockenfels 3
“I am a true believer of creating in the moment.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Lawrence Azerrad
It‘s June, and you know what that means—the unofficial kick-off of summer concert season. This month, we examine design and music, and why fans everywhere benefit when these creative industries work in concert.


Debbie Millman
Erin McKeown
Debbie talks to muscian, playwright, and activist Erin McKeown about the ups and downs in her career, and about writing a musical for the first time.


Jessica Barness
Dancin’ to a New Tune: The Subversive, Entrepreneurial Flexi Disc
The story of the flexi disc vinyl record is an intertwining of manufacturing, form, content, and publication.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Julian Alexander
What made Julian Alexander become a designer, and what was it like working with 50 Cent during the start of his career?


Debbie Millman
Kaki King
Debbie talks to musician Kaki King about her collaborations, her career, and performing and composing.


Michael Bierut
I Love the 80s
Miami Vice: the quintessential postmodern design artifact, in all its glory and all its disgrace.


Mark Kingsley
The Old Taylor Can’t Come to the Phone Right Now
Taylor Swift’s new album, Reputation, may aspire to high art; its cover design is most definitely a step toward the middle.


Lilly Smith
New Album, Old School: Branding The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach
“The appeal of my stuff is that it isn’t perfect. I don’t know how to use Illustrator. Some people are stoked by and some people are turned off by it.”


Debbie Millman
Design Matters from the Archive: Nico Muhly
Debbie talks to composer Nico Muhly about his music and about the musicians who interpret it. "I always feel like they appreciate something that’s detailed on the page to indicate that I know what I’m talking about, but with room for them to continue the conversation when I’m dead."


Debbie Millman
Design Matters from the Archive: Amanda Palmer
On this podcast Debbie talks to Amanda Palmer about her wild and wandering path to the rock stage, and about how behind her artistic ambition is the drive to feel real.


Lawrence Azerrad
Remix, Repeat, and Rediscover: Amplifying the Impact in Art and Music Through Change
Design, like music, is accustomed to remixing.



Steven Heller
I Still Wish I Were a Beatle
The Beatles have, over the course of my lifetime, become attached to my nerve endings. It’s a curious sensation, but one I’m glad I still have.


Adam Harrison Levy
An Interview With Philip Glass
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. This is their exchange.


Michael Bierut
All That Jazz: Posters by Niklaus Troxler
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.


Rob Walker
Listening to Retail
Disquiet Junto has been listening to retail, and it’s changing my ears.


The Editors
King of Pop
Alex Steinweiss


Véronique Vienne
When the Soundtrack is the Message
Music supervisor Beth Urdang


Steven Heller
Mad Music
Back to a time before art, design, and humor had to be sophisticated to be good.


Blake Eskin
White Lines
Shared Earbuds


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


Jessica Helfand
The Karaoke Effect
The illusory bubble populated by thousands of fame-seekers who fervently believe in their own righteous, if highly fictional talent.


Debbie Millman
Nico Muhly
Debbie talks to composer Nico Muhly about his music and about the musicians who interpret it.


Adrian Shaughnessy
Innovation in banality
Searching the stacks of "library music"


Debbie Millman
Amanda Palmer
Debbie talks to Amanda about her wild and wandering path to the rock stage, and about how behind her artistic ambitions is the drive to feel real.


Adrian Shaughnessy
Music by the Numbers
Listening in the Digital Age


Rob Walker
An Album-Packaging Feast
A delicious viral tribute to a gut-bomb ZZ Top album-packaging image from the vinyl era


John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
This collection of underground music and culture events flyers come from the personal online collection of Chicago collector Marc Fischer.


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Cabaret de l'Enfer by Harry C. Ellis
The ghoulish cavern in the villa of Ormen


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Grace Jones by Jean-Paul Goude
Beauty, androgyny, and threat


Debbie Millman
Morley
On this episode of Design Matters Debbie Millman talks to Morley about her songs of social change.


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Luigi Russolo’s Noise Machines
Sonic conjurors of experimental music


Rob Walker
The Music Video, Rebooted
How digital-era aesthetics are making music videos worth watching again


John Foster
Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950


Rob Walker
Personal Packaging
Fondly revisiting the look and feel of the mixtape.


Debbie Millman
Terry Teachout
Terry Teachout discusses the early days of blogging, the poetics of theater and what it's like to be a drama critic for The Wall Street Journal.


Rick Poynor
From the Archive: Brian Eno, Artist of Light
An early profile of ambient musician and producer Brian Eno’s parallel career as a visual artist.


Rick Poynor
Soft Machine’s Dysfunctional Mechanism
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
Christophe Gowans re-imagines well-known album covers as book jackets.



Observed
Speculative Sound Performance
On Tuesday, November 27, at Apexart in NYC: an exercise in sonic branding.


Rob Walker
On Dapper Dan
A look at the spectacular logo-remix aesthetic of rap-culture style pioneer Dapper Dan.


Rick Poynor
True Stories: A Film about People Like Us
Ambiguous but prescient, David Byrne’s film True Stories is a classic piece of postmodern pop anthropology.


Rick Poynor
It’s Smart to Use a Crash Test Dummy
The image of the crash test dummy has traveled from the subcultural fringes to the pop culture mainstream.


Rick Poynor
Brian Eno’s “Music for Films”
On Brian Eno and a competition to design an alternative sleeve for Music for Films


Rick Poynor
From the Archive: Graphic Metallica
Heavy metal’s extremity, as a set of aesthetic choices and as a way of life, exerts an enduring fascination.



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


Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: Continuum’s 33 1/3 Series
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
Chico & Rita is a new animated film by Spanish designer Javier Mariscal and director Fernando Trueba.



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



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






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



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



Mark Lamster
Theirs Go to Twaalf
Meet Lamster (no relation), Belgium's ascendant metal goliath.



Mark Lamster
Michael Jackson, Automotive Designer
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
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
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
Michael Hodgson is a DJ and a designer and is co-founder of the design firm Ph.D.



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



Dmitri Siegel
Taking Things Seriously II




Adrian Shaughnessy
Tony Wilson: The Postmodern Mythmaker
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
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
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
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?
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
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




Alissa Walker
War Is Over! If You Want It
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
A meditation on the joys of vinyl.



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



Michael Bierut
Designing Twyla Tharp's Upper Room
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
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
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
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
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
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"
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.


The Design Observer Cooperative

Observed | September 28

How Biden prepares for the debate of his life: intense preparation, rehearsals, and briefing books—and “he’s a sans-serif man! Mr. Biden has long preferred the Arial typeface,” notes the New York Times, “14 point”. [JH]

“He wanted accurate science, and he wanted great design.” Pioneering science fiction designer Ron Cobb dies at 83. [JH]

Dozens of examples of lettering for jazz musicians, collected by Reagan Ray from album covers and posters. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | September 22

City Monitor is part of New Statesman Media Group’s innovative new data journalism division, which will provide essential business intelligence across topics such as energy, cities, banking, media, and technology, among others. Follow them here. [JH]

Nicolas Heller is helping save New York City, one Instagram post at a time. [BV]


Observed | September 21

Help support this monumental public messaging campaign promoting the patriotism of science, religion and voting from Class Action Collective. [BV]


Observed | September 17

The strange, uninspired history of Spotify’s bland logo. [BV]


Observed | September 16

Behold: Calamityware! (Via Kim Baer.) [JH]


Observed | September 01

Got a Very Serious Book to sell about the dangers of radical right-wing overreach? In book publishing, this is the summer of the Sith Lord design palette. (via Blake Eskin) [BV]


Observed | August 20

Design criticism is everywhere. Why are we still looking for it? A must-read essay from Jarrett Fuller. [MB]

Goodbye mosh pits, hello “personal platforms.” A new music venue in the UK was designed for socially distant concerts. [BV]


Observed | August 18

Contactless filming: design for never leaving home. [JH]


Observed | August 17

No books were harmed in the testing of these animals. [JH]


Observed | August 14

How do activism slideshows go viral on Instagram? By co-opting popular design aesthetics from brands. (via Blake Eskin) [BV]


Observed | August 13

Can you identify the city in which each picture was taken? A visual quiz. [JH]


Observed | August 06

On the power (and ephemerality) of street art. [JH]

The UX of LEGO interface panels. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | August 03

Antica is a new type family designed by Ale Paul & the Sudtipos team. [JH]


Observed | July 31

Branding a pandemic. (via Kim Baer.) [JH]


Observed | July 28

Why do these Apple ads, from a company that takes such pride in design, feature four people who are clearly not trained designers, designing? [BV]


Observed | July 27

Communicative efficiency is not the same as communicative empathy, and one of the truly gut-punching limits of social media is how poorly it corresponds to the individual experience of human grief. A primer by Jason Fields. [JH]


Observed | July 22

Futurefeed is an online space where writers, artists, and thinkers are invited to experiment + explore ideas that are important to them over an extended period of time. [JH]


Observed | July 21

Open a new window somewhere in the world. [BV]

The X-Prize Mask Challenge is looking for a face mask that is attractive, innovative, and achieves the filtration efficacy on par with a surgical mask. PS: You also have to be under 25 years old to enter. (Via Kim Baer.) [JH]


Observed | July 16

How Mexico City crowdsourced a map of its riotous informal bus system. [BV]

The atlas of surveillance. (Yes, you read that right.) [JH]


Observed | July 15

Social Matter, Social Design challenges the way we look at, think of, and interact with the social world by emphasizing the role of materiality. [JH]

When governors are graphic designers: a continuing story. [JH]


Observed | July 14

Design For America, the World Design Organization, and IBM team up to launch the COVID Design Challenge. [JH]

A national reckoning: why It is falling to individuals to become their own interim museums and archives. [JH]



Jobs | September 28