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Oct 11, 2006



Well, one of the jobs that I enjoyed the most doing as a designer ever (in this case, illustrator as well) was actually a CD.

But I did it for a friend, that kind of sideways proves your point.

Andrew Walkingshaw

The problem with music, at an even smaller level, is that there is absolutely no money for the label to even afford professional design; the upshot is that I know the designs on the records my tiny label will be putting out won't be as good, as well prepared for press, etc. as I'd like, because hiring a professional designer would literally double the budget for the release (well under a grand to release 500 CDs and get an album on iTunes these days).

So, we're doing it ourselves, and that's why I'm reading blogs like this - but you get what you pay for, and I'm doing the label's artwork (and accounts, and order fulfilment, and my own music...) effectively for free for the love of it. The entire edifice is built on hobbyists and dreamers. It's a long way from PSA or Hipgnosis, certainly...


I can also prove this true. i worked for a year or so at a large indie label out of Los Angeles as a designer, despite being a multi million dollar company, the base salaries were under the poverty level, and i could bearly survive, despite being one of the better paid employees.

I do a lot of design for music packaging today, and AD a lot of other designers on projects for my own label This Generation Tapes. its great when you are the client, and also a graphic designer yourself, and i think it shows in our releases. Something i can't say for the label i used worked for.

album covers: www.thetgtstore.com

Rob Mortimer

There are plenty of wonderful CD designs if you look around at less mainstream stuff.

One thing I love about collecting vinyl is the way that almost all the artworks look better on the big 12" covers.

dan at innocent

Your point about start ups is a good one. You have to also look at it from the point of view of the start up (and not just the designer). We never thought our innocent logo would become recognised; we never thought our business would get very big. But it has, and now we're saddled with a weird squiggle. Obviously, I'm not complaining - I love our logo/identity and I love our business. But it's funny that we never thought about how it would serve us if we were a £100M company. I guess it's best not to think about that stuff and to just design something that you like. If we had thought too hard about it we would have no doubt screwed it up.

Marcus Brown

Good post and worth a sheep.

I think you've touched on something really important here, and if there are any young designers at college reading this stuff, take note. If someone joins the design industry (or any industry) because it's "cool", and they want to do "cool things", then they are a fool. It's just plain hard work. Really. It ain't "cool" being asked (again) why it's red and not green or if you could make the font bigger. But it should be rewarding. Rewarding is good. That little shiver of pleasure when you know you've hit the spot and got it right. It should be both financially and personally rewarding. Getting paid, now that's really cool.

I think another good post would be:

Things you think will be boring / bad / drab to design but actually aren't. At all.

These projects often have much more breathing space. And they usually pay the bills. They are bread and butter jobs, but they are usually quite fun.


Two things, first hand:
1/ A friend of mine is in a band, signed by Sony Records. Her sister is a very tallented professional designer. With all this talk about there being no money/tight budgets etc you might be excused in thinking that Sony might like to save a few bucks, contract the job out to someone who's talented, ogt an insidee understanding of the band (and related to the artist, got to be a story in there somewhere/a spin). But no.
2/ Musicians are creative. But this does not mean that they are 'design' creative. Many of the small record label/solo efforts end up under (less than) average album art is precicely because of this. They have a bootleg copy of Photoshop, or a mate doing a night class. Just because I have GarageBand does not mean I will am the next Robbie now does it?
I was lucky to design an album. It was tricky getting the artists to release thier death-grip over the creative process but was worth the effort in the end for everyone.

Dev One

I created a website for a start-up under the premise that they'd be able to get us some album design work. They paid peanuts, the process was a nightmare and you guessed it - no album design work appears. I'm not joking. You just couldn't script it.


You can add the theatre industry to the list. They're essentially the same as the film and music industry: not a lot of money, and they just love to criticise your design, even though they haven't got a clue. I'd like to remind some of my clients: just because you're creative in other ways doesn't mean you know anything about graphic design.
Ah and another group of bad clients: family members. Don't even get me started on that one :-)


The majority of the time I have found start ups to be a nightmare to work with.

To them, the business that they are starting is the most important thing in the world, and it is often hard for a designer who is doing a paid job to satisfy such a demanding client.

The other problem, which I have found with most owner managers is that that they see the money they are spending as 'their money' and we always have trouble getting paid on time by them.

Don't get me wrong, I have a few clients who we have worked with from start up through years of business and had a great time doing it, but I've had more trouble with owner managers then all the other sectors I work with put together.

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