While looking at some of the artwork that was used for UK garage releases, the designs for 187 Lockdown stood out. These were created by agency Form and the whole campaign really does not typify the output of the scene. This is likely to be due to the fact that we have a cutting-edge multi-disciplinary agency working on behalf of a major label. Elsewhere at this point (1997) there is more evidence of a localised, lo-fi approach with producers or labels turning to less established practitioners operating within (or at least on the fringes) of the genre. Often this means approaches that are affected by barely existent budgets and, in cases, this prompts what might be seen as 'amateurish' work. The latter observation isn't a slight, of course: in many cases a less slick approach would have had benefits (specifically in terms of maintaining a release's 'underground' credentials).
What I have noticed is a later split between the kinds of produced visuals as UK garage began to achieve even more mainstream success: we began to see very polished sleeves aimed at buyers of chart records in addition to the continued use of the 'house bag' or generic label sleeve. In some cases many labels would choose to maintain the latter for their supposedly DJ-oriented vinyl release while the more commercial CD format would have production values perhaps more closely associated with pop releases. Additionally there is evidence of an aspirational quality creeping into some of the visual material perhaps mirroring the popularity of designer brands within the scene. [In Discographies Gilbert and Pearson mark the return of 'dress up' door policies within this scene following the acid house's refusal of such restrictions. The elitism also affected social behaviour with the popularity of Champagne in some of London's garage clubs. There is more to say about all this - particularly in its relationship to the 'bling' culture even more prevalent within hip hop - and I'll possibly look at that when discussing the sleeves created for MJ Cole's releases at some point.]
From Form's site:
Client: East West Records
Gunman, The Don, All ‘N’ All singles
Photography: Spiros Politis
We were asked to create a campaign of three singles and album to illustrate an underground feel reflecting the tense yet light hearted energy of this Garage act.
As the duo didn’t want to appear on any covers we devised a campaign that revolved around a stark, graphic representation of the band’s name. By focusing on the ‘187’ over a series of boards, we spent hours scouting locations in London that we felt represented the bands ethos and photographed the signs in situ. This route was cost effective (as we had an entire campaign in one day) and allowed for a distinct identity over a series of sleeves.
The typography was Industrial in feel and basic in its message: Neue Helvetica Bold caps, printed black on a process yellow background emphasized the sense of tension with its ‘Hazard’ modernist delivery.