Research into Folklore Imagery and Stories

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I purchased a book by chance recently which was titled, ‘The Folklore of Plants’ and it’s filled incredible pieces of information surrounding old folklore tales relating to plants, their meanings, flower superstitions and customs. Something that really caught my eye is a group of plants named, ‘lightning plants’. “Lightning plants, a portentous group of personalities are protective against lightning, sickness and witchcraft and important in birth, death, love and marriage, increase and wealth. Holly, fern, hawthorn, elder, gooseberry, houseleek, mistletoe, oak and rowan are among these plants at least two or three of these features: pinnate, pinnatifid, or deeply serrated leaves; scarlet or yellow berries or flowers; or thorns; forked angular growth; dancing jagged patterns of lightning.”

Healing Herbs

Plants still appear in conventional medicene. The poisonous principle digitalin, for example, found in the foxglove, is useful in heart complaints. There has been a great revival of interest in folk and herbal remedies. Earlier the ‘doctrine of signatures’ (in fact quite valueless) was influential and its exponents believed that plants bore cures, such as coloured juice or a shaped seedpod, which indicated their healing properties. The leaves of pulmonaria, spotted like lung tissue, seemed to fit it to treat tuberculosis; ther walnut’s brain-like shape proposed its use for brain disorders. The clues were attributed to divine favour. When the hurt shall bring you woe, God made the healing herb to grow.

Below are musical manuscript with an inspiring font !!

Why Do We Need Album Art ???

As the laws of physics suggest, you’ll see things before you hear them. That’s no different when it comes to listening to an album or song, as more often than not, before you press play, the first thing that will catch your attention, is the accompanying cover art.” (Shah, D. 2016.) Like lightning and thunder comes cover art and music, the art making an immidate first impression with the following rumble of the first track on the album. This is an exploration into the importance of visuals and music, how it has progressed and the graphic artists and illustrators who have kept things interesting for the people still care about producing groundbreaking and radical album art. Since Alex Steinweiss invented the album cover when he was hired as Columbia Records’ first art director in 1938, sound and aesthetic have united, enabling a somewhat magical experience for the audience. It was his undeniable passion for the subject which created the whole basis of a new graphic language when it came to record covers, “I love music so much and I had such ambition that I was willing to go way beyond what the hell they paid me for. I wanted people to look at the artwork and hear the music.” (Steinweiss, A., cited in Reagan, K. 2011.) Before this became an area of blossoming creativity, each piece of music would have typically been sold and packaged in a brown paper bag or blank sleeve. Once there was a new developed and specifically designed cover for a 78 rpm record, it created a whole other experience.

What goes into producing a radical piece of album artwork in the 21st Century has consequently been effected by mass production of music and consumerism. “You don’t have to be a neo-Marxist, or a street fighting, balaclava wearing No-Logo-er to know that modern consumer strategies are antithetical to experimentation and radicalism.” (Shaughnessy, A. for The Intro Corporation. 2003.) More so than ever, the mainstream record industry and the formula which goes into creating a piece of popular music meant for the Top 20, has become so exact and monotonous with each girl group and indie boy singer branded to perfection. And now, to the delight of the fame obsessed, album art has become a platform to furthermore promote celebrity culture. It is easy and familiar, and the masses adore what is familiar to them. This has quite a large connection with the theory of standardisation, “for is not Art, in its very essence, the free expression of an unfettered soul, undefiled by the rules and proscriptions of that pedantic and hamstrung exactitude which Standardisation postulates?” (Lomb, Henry. 1928.) Music holds itself so high as an art form in every single persons life, it is one of the easiest creative forces that all human beings may have a connection with. In history it is said that the five main classical forms of art were painting, sculpture, architecture, music, and poetry. But not every person likes every type of music, and so we have chart topping tunes all written by the same method, satisfying what people need or want at that moment in time. “It would be naïve to think that record companies were once benign organisations solely preoccupied with releasing high quality music and the unselfish development of talent. It’s always been a ruthless business, full of sharp operators who saw that easy money could be made from us gullible punters craving the next pop sensation.” (Shaughnessy, A., 2008.) Another factor linked with the rarity in mainstream music of progressive album artwork, is the issue of digital downloads and piracy. In this cyber age of music, things have changed. Up until the last 15 or so years, with each piece of music purchased, the packaging played a major part in customer satisfaction. Now, it is less likely that people would take such pride in visiting a store and purchasing a record or CD to hold and enjoy, “yet despite the inexorable process of conglomeration that threatens to engulf the record industry, remarkable and brilliant covers still appear under the imprint of major labels.” (Shaughnessy, A. for The Intro Corporation. 2003.) A great example of this would be that of Björk, who has collaborated with the likes of Nick Knight and Alexander McQueen, masters in their field. With every album cover Björk has managed to create beautifully thought out and delicate images, telling stories of passion, love and drama. This is a rare find in the vast space that is the mainstream music industry, but it is when you take time to dig through the channels and sift out greatness, what can be found are artists and musicians creating innovatory sounds, matched up with extremely talented artists, designers and illustrators who continue to push the boundaries for todays contemporary album art.


Whether it be an album and its cover, a music video or a graphic poster for an event or concert, visuals are so important for creating excitement. It sets the scene and creates a mood or atmosphere for the world in which the artist is trying to place their music. “Music is not just an auditory experience. It’s a multi-sensory affair which triggers all kinds of feelings and emotions. When listening to music, we want to feel a certain way, to be transported to an entirely different place, and an album’s sleeve, can help to do that.” (Shah, D. 2016.) Contemporary sleeve design is about being playful, and an interesting example of music creating its own insane environment, while aided by the artwork, is DJ and producer Sophie. As mentioned, music is a multi-sensory affair, and no one does this better than Sophie. Tracks such as Hard and Lemonade sound as though you could actually touch it. It sparkles, squelches, bubbles, bangs and seethes, like soft rubber or hard plastic. Sophie herself perfectly describes the music in an interview with Bomb Magazine, “I think it would be extremely exciting if music could take you on the same sort of high-thrill 3-minute ride as a theme park roller coaster. Where it spins you upside down, dips you in water, flashes strobe lights at you, takes you on a slow incline to the peak, and then drops you vertically down a smokey tunnel, then stops with a jerk, and your hair is all messed up, and some people feel sick, and others are laughing—then you buy a key ring.” (Russel, L., and Sophie. 2012.) The eight track debut album Product, was a compilation of singles released between 2013 and 2015. With each single release was accompanying cover art, all the images were of 3D rendered water slides, except one, the artwork for L.O.V.E., which shows a bright pink blow up pool float in the shape of a very adorable ant. Each cover signifying the trip it is about to take you on and the sensation you should experience. “To mirror the rubbery and synthetic textures of his candied electronic glitches and twitches, the producer decided to use silicon, instead of the traditional jewel case, to package the discs.” (Shah, D. 2016.) This is an artist who has considered every aspect of production available while creating and packaging music. 


“So what is this role of the contemporary radical album cover? A playground for the super indulgent graphic designers or an experimental terrain for mapping out the future shape of graphic design.” (Shaughnessy, A. for The Intro Corporation. 2003.) Graphic designer and illustrator, Bráulio Amado has produced a vast number of incredibly creative outcomes due to his rule of being as spontaneous as possible while working. He had studied and been interested in designing, but it was after receiving a scholarship at School of Visual Arts that he moved his learning to New York, which is when things began to blossom. While living and working he began producing event posters for different clubs and music events across the city. He quickly discovered he had a passion for it, due to the fact the work could be as free as he wanted it to be, “he has doused the place with kerosene and gone to work with a blowtorch. Everything you shouldn’t do is here. Type stretched barely, then distorted beyond recognition, amorphous shapes airbrushed into dimension, and freak-ish cartoon characters promoting jazz. It’s DIY punk with a sumptuos colour palette.” (Gall, J. for Amado, B.) After some time, he was hired to design each poster for the upcoming house and techno nights in the club Good Room in Brooklyn.

His book 2016, reveals a vast collection of every event poster he had done that year in chronlogical order. In an interview with Design Boom, Amado further explains why he loves creating these posters and how it can add to the overall feeling of anticipation when attending a show, “I like to feel that the poster sets the tone for what you are about to experience and makes you even more excited to see a performance from a band or someone you already felt excited about.” (Butler, A., and Amado, B. 2015.) Along with the ongoing development of gig posters, today Amado has produced over thirty record covers for varying artists. He has a totally fresh perspective on design and it is hard not to get lost in the untamed typography, colours and illustrations. Music clearly has a major influence in his life and on his career, making him one of many considered radical record cover designers. Below are the two covers for Frank Ocean’s singles, Lens and Provider. They are undeniably bold, while maintaining that key element of playfulness. “Carrying through Ocean’s request to reference the Kerry James Marshall painting A Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self, also allows the final product to exist on multiple levels of joy and discovery.” (McLaughlin, A., 2018.)

Another way for artistic creativity to blossom in the music industry is through smaller and independent record labels, “visual artists’ record labels, simulate real commercial enterprises, starting with their visual identity. Design plays a major role.” (Spampinato, F. 2015.) Morr Music is an independent record label based in Berlin and was set up by Thomas Morr. The majority of the artists who have joined the label can be linked with the interesting genres that are, ‘intelligent dance music’, dreampop and electronica. With independent record labels, it seems important to maintain a strong visual identity, “in some cases, the graphics immmediately recall the musical genre of the label.” (Spampinato, F. 2015.) With each release at Morr Music, is a piece of artwork which reflects the label and its artists, resulting in the admirable unity of sound and visuals.

Another notable independent record label is Gold Standard Laboratories which sadly came to an end in 2007 while based in Los Angeles. The Locust, a band who were signed with them at the time, produced several interesting vinyls with accompanying cover art, but it was the thought gone into the actual design of the pressed record which shows true artistic radicalism. Below are two different productions by The Locust, cleverly put together, the image on the right features “colours which represent human bodily fluids: blood, feces, milk, mucus and urine.” (Roettinger, B., 2010.)

Although people are purchasing less physical records and CDs in the modern day, the undeniable significance of the link between music and its artwork is still being kept alive by so many artists who continue to map out the growth of underground production for sleeve design, event posters and within independent labels. The artwork is there to help bring across a new meaning or enhance the sound of the music being played. It is all about discovery into the artists headspace and where their head may have been at while producing an album or single, but most of all it is fun. “Contemporary sleeve design is not only about brick throwing and rebellion. It is also about playfulness. And playfulness is one of the primary reasons why graphic designers are drawn to working with small labels and radical musicians. After all we are talking about music packaging here, not the life-or-death realities of road signage, medicine packaging or airline safety instruction cards.” (Shaughnessy, A. for The Intro Corporation. 2003.)


♥ Amado, Bráulio. 2017. 2016. Portugal. Stolen Books.
♥ Butler, Andy. 2015. Design Boom; Interview with Graphic Designer Bráulio Amado. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 10 March 2018].
♥ Lomb, Henry. 1928. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Vol. 137. Standards in Industry. pp. 176-180.
♥ McLaughlin, Aimée. 2018. Design Week. The Record Sleeve Designers You Need to Know About. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 12 March 2018].
♥ Reagen, Kevin. 2011. Alex Steinweiss: The Inventor of the Modern Album Cover. Köln. Taschen.
♥ Roettinger, Brian. 2010. Touchable Sound: A Collection of 7-Inch Records from the USA. New York. Soundscreen Design.
♥ Shah, Deep. 2016. The Importance of Album Artwork. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 08 March 2018].
♥ Shaughnessy, Adrian. 2008. Cover Art by: New Music Graphics. London. Laurence King Publishers.
♥ Spampinato, Francesco. 2015. Can You Hear Me? Music Labels by Visual Artists. Eindhoven. Onomatopee.
♥ Russel, Legacy. 2012. BOMB Magazine. Expanded Benefits: Matthew Lutz-Kinoy and SOPHIE – BOMB Magazine. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 10 March 2018].
 ♥ The Intro Corporation, Introductory essay by Shaughnessy, Adrian. 2003. Radical Album Cover Art. Sampler 3. London. Lawrence King Publishing.

1000 WORDS

Entering this project I was willing to keep my mind open and push myself to really try and work well with the people who I would be placed in a group with. We began reviewing the basics of what the National Justice Museum were looking for in a group of illustrators. Their vision was for us to present them and their brand as they represent themselves. Consistency and quality was key in what they were looking for as they asked us to complete a set of images outlining at least five criminal and five civil laws that could be used as a learning exercise for a group of children in a specific age group.  The National Justice Museum made it clear that they were a brand which were inclusive, educational, thought-provoking and enjoyable. We were given a few ideas and from that point we assigned our own group members.

I had struggled with the group project in first year and I thought it may have been because there was quite a large number of us. Having a larger number in the group, I felt it was harder to truly represent everyones artistic and illustrative style. This is something I wanted to make sure wasn’t such an issue with this new collaborative project. We came together as a nice round number of four. My group members were Grace, Karis and Catherine. I hadn’t worked with any of them before but I recognised some of their work and was confident in thinking it would be interesting to work with them all. Preferably I would have liked to have been in a group of three just to fully understand each individuals ideas and ways of creating, but four was the number we were working with. In our group we began reviewing the details given to us so far, but had decided that until we had more of a think, visited the Royal Courts of Justice and received more information then we could start talking over a few solid ideas.

A few days later as a class we attended the Royal Courts of Justice in which we were another talk about which direction we may like to take the brief in. Following on from this, I turned to Grace, Karis and Catherine to discuss how we may be able to create an engaging activity for the children. One of the ideas put forward which everyone seemed to like was ‘spot the difference’ cards. At that point I had considered how spot the difference might add to the actual lesson of learning each law, but I thought maybe it could be worked with and so we stuck with it. This was our first point of reference in creating a set of images.

Together we chose ten laws and split the work load as evenly as possible. I took on the task of depicting a drug deal and a murder scene, Karis took arson and nuisance, Catherine, vandalism and divorce and Grace offered to take the last four laws which were discrimination of employment, human rights, burglary and copyright. Following on from this both Grace and myself had completed various sketches and inital ideas for each of the laws we had chosen and continued to exchange ideas on background colours and a colour scheme. For awhile over this period it felt as though only I had been working with Grace and there wasn’t much communication coming back from the other members of the group.

The next stage of progression was to meet up with our client and have a review of where we were in the project at that point and how to move forward with our work. Myself and Grace were the only ones in attendance and we presented what we had both done up to date and also discussed the idea of spot the difference. He liked our drawings and the fact you could clearly see what was happening in the images. He liked the colours in our images so we decided to stick with this and have a specific colour scheme running throughout. Spot the difference didn’t go down so well as he feared it may not actually bring anything more to the exercise other than us giving ourselves twice the amount of work to complete. I agreed as it seemed quite pointless to feature this in our work as it had not been worked upon and left a relatively simple idea.

Following on from the meeting with our client we then decided we had to make some decisions based on our feedback whether or not the rest of the group were with us. We worked on a set colour scheme and from this we just aimed on working towards finalising our images. Having reached a certain point in completing our images we met as a four to discuss and review each others work once more. It was frustrating to see that others didn’t seem to have much to show but this was expected. There was one more review with our client in which we showed the most up to date versions of our images. The feedback was constructive and helped us move forward towards completion.

A few final adjustments were to be made and it made sense to stick to Grace’s style of illustration to aid the consistency of our work. This was applauded in the final critique as all of our work had been edited and everything then flowed very well. In terms of working with my group I would have really appreciated more of a push, it is understandable when people have previous commitments or issues arise but overall there was a real lack of reciprocated communication. Overall, it was interesting to have worked on this collaborative project with a new group of people and reach new areas of design when creating a final packaging look. This brief was a learning curve and helped me understand even further not only about how others work, but also how I myself work.