Dear graphic design industry: we need to talk.
For those who do CD album art, this isn’t a good time for you. Sales are down, people are worrying less about pretty inserts and more about their sales on iTunes, and any idiot with a computer and access to a torrent site can use Photoshop and make their own album covers. But that’s no reason to get sloppy. Lately, I’ve been noticing that your attempts at remaining relevant have been getting worse, and I think it’s time that we sit down and discuss some of your more glaring design offenses, before it’s too late.
First, your handwriting sucks. There are many things that are unique to each person: fingerprints, DNA, tolerance for dairy, and, yes, handwriting. But unfortunately, artists have figured this out and jumped on it as a way to “be unique” when designing their CD inserts. This would be fine if people still studied cursive in school for longer than 15 minutes. But since we’ve moved past the point where the teacher came around brandishing a ruler every time you screwed up, people put less time into improving their writing, and therefore most handwritten track listings look like the artists found a raccoon, put gloves on it, and gave it a pen (which it then ate). Do you know why professors ask you not to handwrite assignments? It’s because most handwriting is totally illegible—and artists are no exception. In fact, most of them are worse. In short, put down the pen, and find yourself a decent font book.
Second, the ladies have got to do better. As the host of a radio show that focuses on female Canadian artists, I hear a lot of solo acoustic artists, the majority of whom come armed with a piano and/or acoustic guitar and a heartbreaking story that they just have to express through song. Many of these artists have been struck by what I like to call “Jewel Disease,” where it’s believed that posing with a guitar shows that you not only know how to play an instrument, but that you’re cute and folky (not to be confused with “Celine Dion Disease,” where you replace emotion with punching yourself in the chest while you sing, or “Alanis Morrisette Disease,” where you have sex with Dave Coulier). Unfortunately, Jewel Disease stopped being cute and folky, and began being lazy and cliché, sometime around 1964. Frankly, I feel like it’s time that we start posing with something new, like harpsichords, or maybe a stack of pancakes, just for a change.
Thirdly, what’s so fucking hard about putting the tracks in order? Shouldn’t that be in the graphic designer’s contract? When did it become okay to just randomly place the track names throughout the back cover like the designer had a stroke while working and lost the ability to count? Making it so that no one can understand the track listings doesn’t make it cool, it makes it massively frustrating and causes me to use the CDs as coasters for revenge.
Finally, popular images do not equal good images. Things I never want to see on another CD cover ever again: sparrows, zombies, rappers posing with scantily clad women draped around their knees, Comic Sans, Times New Roman, wrds mssng thr vwls, anything “posterized,” Superman-style imagery, and anyone from American Idol.
Actually, scratch that last one—they don’t have careers anyway.
Alex Nursall is the host of The Beaver Lodge on Thursdays from 11 p.m. to midnight on CIUT 89.5 FM.