The Milkman’s description of his preference for browsing CDs rather than iTunes if he was unsure what to listen to (see my post about iTunes 7) prompted me to finish this post about CD spines that’s been sitting round in my drafts folder for ages…
The migration of music from vinyl to compact disc was widely decried for the diminution of the canvas available to the designer. However, with the advent of the widely-loathed jewel-case, came a slight increase in width of the spine over the average single disc vinyl album (the rarer gatefold was closer in acreage to the CD – I wonder how many new gatefold sleeves are released nowadays?) To my knowledge it’s the admirable Soul Jazz label that has best exploited this space.
Ignoring the multi-CD boxes (Intro designed Stereolab, blank whiteness of the Kontakt Der Junglinge and the 3CD Trojans), when scanning the shelves for inspiration, it’s difficult to ignore anything on Soul Jazz because of their engagingly bold design ethos: bright, often two-colour images and sharp-edged vector graphics, helped in no little part by the label’s adoption of cardboard outer sleeves for their jewel cases and digipaks.
I wonder how useful coverflow in iTunes 7 will prove to be for browsing. Time will tell I guess, but it should offer a significant improvement as long as people can be bothered to add the covers that aren’t supplied automatically.
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design, music, music interfaces
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1. Gutta 13.10.06 / 11am
haha that Kraftwerk jpg was like looking at part of my own collection! I’ve gone right off itunes and virtual music collections. i’m sure its a way of life for some ppl, but it ain’t for me…
2. themilkman 13.10.06 / 1pm
I must say that if the coverflow thing amused me about 5 minutes (especially when I imported the covers I created for a couple of compilations), I don’t use the music library enough for it to be of much use to me. Plus, it considerably slows down my rheumatising Mac.
Although mixed CD spines can rapidly become a blur if you have more than 20 CDs, I find it makes spotting a particular CD a lot easier than spotting a particular vinyl (even gatefold). I find I have a mental image of a particular spine I am looking for if I am looking for something specific, and I also roughly know on which shlef I am likely to to find it, so it all helps.
I especially like the treatment applied by The Designers Republic on some Warp releases especially to have small text on two lines, as they did recently for AFX’s Hangable Auto Bulb, but I find I like the use of small text anyway usually… wherever. Even my hand writing is quite tiny!
3. Peter Skwiot Smith 13.10.06 / 4pm
It’s funny you should post this on your site, as I recently made a similar post on mine concerning digital versus physical music. Last week I sold my iPod, in an effort to reclaim my physical music collection and actually start using it. I am not opposed to digital music (Napster and SoulSeek introduced me to more music than I still know what to do with), nor do I condemn it and wish it go away.
The physical packaging to me is important (especially as graphic designer) and I refuse (99% of the time) to purchase digital music (as I am paying a similar price to a CD and receiving an inferior product), so why bother having an iPod?
I have been using straight CDs for the last two weeks, and have rediscovered much of my collection again, simply because so much was passed over in iTunes and on my iPod. This might start happening with CDs only, but at least I am using the object I am spending my money on.
Cheers on the post.
4. 11V 18.10.06 / 8pm
Good to hear from you Gutta, hope you’re doing very well.
Milkman – my particular focus on this post was spins that stand out, but I know what you mean about small text – Rune Grammofon being a distinct point in that regard – it’s like almost not having text when it’s that small and standardised.
Peter – funny that this is the point at which CDs are virtually old school… Like you, I’ve returned to playing CDs recently when at home.
5. themilkman 27.10.06 / 5pm
I realised your post was about spines that stand out, and I was kinda making the same point starting from a completely different angle. It always fascinates me to see how people react so differently to the same thing, but I suppose this is what makes life in general so interesting.
Peter, I thought your post was very interesting, and I am glad that there seem to be more people around who enjoy the physical aspect of music than I at some point thought. I wouldn’t go as far as selling my MP3 player though as I certainly enjoy the practicality of having 20Gb (in my case) of music wherever I go, which means that I will most probably be able to find something to suit my mood whatever it is if I get stuck on a train or am away from home for a few days. In that respect, I actually prefer carrying one MP3 player than a portable CD player and loads of CDs in my bag, It spares my back for a start!
At home though, it is very rare that I listen to MP3s. I occasionally use Soulseek, mostly to download something that I am interested in but have never heard before, and more often than not, I end up buying the album on CD once I’ve come to the conclusion that I like what I’ve downloaded. If not, it usually end up being pushed into oblivion, sometimes quite roughly, via my trash folder.
6. Justin 20.12.06 / 9am
what a great post, it echoes my sentiments exactly, I’ve spent the past couple of months slowly backing up my CD collection to two 400GB external drives in FLAC… I thought the convenience of having everything in one place would revolutionise how I listened to music – instead I found the experience of browsing through the folders soulless and uninspiring.
Nothing beats browsing shelves of physical objects, carrying them over to the hifi and kicking back on the sofa to listen properly.
As an aside, with the lifespan of harddrives taken into account, CDs are actually still one of the best ways to store digital data for the long term.
7. 11V 19.02.07 / 5pm
Hello Justin, I usually receive an email notification of new comments, but this one never arrived hence the lateness of my response. I think I’d be more interested in the digital backup if I could store the drives remotely – one of my occasional fears is the idea of losing my music collection through fire, flood or similar. As with my laptop backup being onsite, if I get robbed I’ve lost the lot. This is a slightly tricky problem to solve.