Music

The Editors
Music
Is there much of a future, Tom Vanderbilt once asked, for the graphic representation of popular music itself?


Debbie Millman
Joan As Police Woman
Joan Wasser shares her musical journey from a classically trained violinist to a solo singer, songwriter, and rock star known as Joan As Police Woman.


Debbie Millman
Jack White + Ben Jenkins
On this episode of Design Matters with Debbie Millman music legend Jack White and design entrepreneur Ben Jenkins discuss craftsmanship, design, and baseball.


Debbie Millman
Best of Design Matters: Kaki King
Rolling Stones has called Kaki King a genre unto herself—she joins to talk about her career path and even plays a song or two.


Debbie Millman
Toshi Reagon
Shaped by music and activism, Toshi Reagon reflects on her upbringing and remarkable career writing, playing, singing, and producing music.


Steven Heller
Jonathan Barnbrook Jolts Electronic Music with Design
An interview with Jonathan Barnbrook about taking refuge in electronic music, his new cd, and accompanying uniquely illustrated five-hundred-page book.


Steven Heller
When Good Humor Ice Cream was Hot
The audio rebranding of Good Humor ice cream.


Jessica Helfand + Hrishikesh Hirway
Episode 131: Word by Word
With Hrishikesh Hirway: games and puzzles, The West Wing Weekly, soap operas, Home Cooking


Steven Heller
Command Records’ Design Distinction
Command Records covers are striking for the graphic and branding power of the abstract format.


Steven Heller
Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die
New York-based (former musician, banker, and collector) Andrew Krivine is arguably the most passionate Punk music devotee in the world.


Debbie Millman
Lucy Wainwright Roche
A conversation with Lucy Wainwright Roche about her musical family, her career as a singer-songwriter, and her musical tastes.


Jessica Helfand + Ellen McGirt
S7E12: Janelle Monáe
Janelle Monáe is a singer, songwriter, actor, and producer.


Debbie Millman
David Lee Roth
On this epsiode Debbie talks to David Lee Roth about his childhood, about his long career and his new skincare business, and about how he has avoided crashing, like so many other rock stars. “To be perfectly fair, I’ve had my wild excesses.”


Steven Heller
The Rolling Thunder Revue Unreview
Steven Heller on the power artists and designers have to move us.


Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
S5E12: Dmitri Siegel
Dmitri Siegel is vice president of global brand at Sonos.


Debbie Millman
Shirley Manson
Debbie talks to singer-songwriter Shirley Manson about her career, her music, and the long road that got her where she is today.


Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
Episode 85: Midsummer Music
Musical theater, soundtracks, Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Rachmaninoff’s Cello Sonata in D Minor, and more.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Paul Moore
“Streaming has shocked new life into the music industry and the vinyl we all hold dear to our hearts. Now the platform is finding a new generation of ardent fans. As designers, that’s where we can influence a movement.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Emily Batson
“A key part of my job is collaboration. I enjoy the negotiation of finding a concept that truly works.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Frank Ockenfels 3
“I am a true believer of creating in the moment.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Lawrence Azerrad
It‘s June, and you know what that means—the unofficial kick-off of summer concert season. This month, we examine design and music, and why fans everywhere benefit when these creative industries work in concert.


Debbie Millman
Erin McKeown
Debbie talks to muscian, playwright, and activist Erin McKeown about the ups and downs in her career, and about writing a musical for the first time.


Jessica Barness
Dancin’ to a New Tune: The Subversive, Entrepreneurial Flexi Disc
The story of the flexi disc vinyl record is an intertwining of manufacturing, form, content, and publication.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Julian Alexander
What made Julian Alexander become a designer, and what was it like working with 50 Cent during the start of his career?


Debbie Millman
Kaki King
Debbie talks to musician Kaki King about her collaborations, her career, and performing and composing.


Michael Bierut
I Love the 80s
Miami Vice: the quintessential postmodern design artifact, in all its glory and all its disgrace.


Mark Kingsley
The Old Taylor Can’t Come to the Phone Right Now
Taylor Swift’s new album, Reputation, may aspire to high art; its cover design is most definitely a step toward the middle.


Lilly Smith
New Album, Old School: Branding The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach
“The appeal of my stuff is that it isn’t perfect. I don’t know how to use Illustrator. Some people are stoked by and some people are turned off by it.”


Debbie Millman
Design Matters from the Archive: Nico Muhly
Debbie talks to composer Nico Muhly about his music and about the musicians who interpret it. "I always feel like they appreciate something that’s detailed on the page to indicate that I know what I’m talking about, but with room for them to continue the conversation when I’m dead."


Debbie Millman
Design Matters from the Archive: Amanda Palmer
On this podcast Debbie talks to Amanda Palmer about her wild and wandering path to the rock stage, and about how behind her artistic ambition is the drive to feel real.


Lawrence Azerrad
Remix, Repeat, and Rediscover: Amplifying the Impact in Art and Music Through Change
Design, like music, is accustomed to remixing.



Steven Heller
I Still Wish I Were a Beatle
The Beatles have, over the course of my lifetime, become attached to my nerve endings. It’s a curious sensation, but one I’m glad I still have.


Adam Harrison Levy
An Interview With Philip Glass
In 2005, Adam Harrison Levy interviewed Philip Glass for a BBC documentary film about Chuck Close. Glass was seated in front of the monumental painting Phil. This is their exchange.


Michael Bierut
All That Jazz: Posters by Niklaus Troxler
Niklaus Troxler’s jazz posters can be viewed as a single, self-initiated project that has developed over five decades, a body of work with few precedents.


Rob Walker
Listening to Retail
Disquiet Junto has been listening to retail, and it’s changing my ears.


The Editors
King of Pop
Alex Steinweiss


Véronique Vienne
When the Soundtrack is the Message
Music supervisor Beth Urdang


Steven Heller
Mad Music
Back to a time before art, design, and humor had to be sophisticated to be good.


Blake Eskin
White Lines
Shared Earbuds


Rick Poynor
The Art of Punk and the Punk Aesthetic
Punk has two graphic histories: Punk: An Aesthetic and The Art of Punk. What conclusions do they draw?


Jessica Helfand
The Karaoke Effect
The illusory bubble populated by thousands of fame-seekers who fervently believe in their own righteous, if highly fictional talent.


Debbie Millman
Nico Muhly
Debbie talks to composer Nico Muhly about his music and about the musicians who interpret it.


Adrian Shaughnessy
Innovation in banality
Searching the stacks of "library music"


Debbie Millman
Amanda Palmer
Debbie talks to Amanda about her wild and wandering path to the rock stage, and about how behind her artistic ambitions is the drive to feel real.


Adrian Shaughnessy
Music by the Numbers
Listening in the Digital Age


Rob Walker
An Album-Packaging Feast
A delicious viral tribute to a gut-bomb ZZ Top album-packaging image from the vinyl era


John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
This collection of underground music and culture events flyers come from the personal online collection of Chicago collector Marc Fischer.


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Cabaret de l'Enfer by Harry C. Ellis
The ghoulish cavern in the villa of Ormen


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Grace Jones by Jean-Paul Goude
Beauty, androgyny, and threat


Debbie Millman
Morley
On this episode of Design Matters Debbie Millman talks to Morley about her songs of social change.


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Luigi Russolo’s Noise Machines
Sonic conjurors of experimental music


Rob Walker
The Music Video, Rebooted
How digital-era aesthetics are making music videos worth watching again


John Foster
Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950


Rob Walker
Personal Packaging
Fondly revisiting the look and feel of the mixtape.


Debbie Millman
Terry Teachout
Terry Teachout discusses the early days of blogging, the poetics of theater and what it's like to be a drama critic for The Wall Street Journal.


Rick Poynor
From the Archive: Brian Eno, Artist of Light
An early profile of ambient musician and producer Brian Eno’s parallel career as a visual artist.


Rick Poynor
Soft Machine’s Dysfunctional Mechanism
An alternative cover for the French release of The Soft Machine’s first album alludes to the history of the machine in 20th-century art.



Observed
Classic Albums Reimagined as Books
Christophe Gowans re-imagines well-known album covers as book jackets.



Observed
Speculative Sound Performance
On Tuesday, November 27, at Apexart in NYC: an exercise in sonic branding.


Rob Walker
On Dapper Dan
A look at the spectacular logo-remix aesthetic of rap-culture style pioneer Dapper Dan.


Rick Poynor
True Stories: A Film about People Like Us
Ambiguous but prescient, David Byrne’s film True Stories is a classic piece of postmodern pop anthropology.


Rick Poynor
It’s Smart to Use a Crash Test Dummy
The image of the crash test dummy has traveled from the subcultural fringes to the pop culture mainstream.


Rick Poynor
Brian Eno’s “Music for Films”
On Brian Eno and a competition to design an alternative sleeve for Music for Films


Rick Poynor
From the Archive: Graphic Metallica
Heavy metal’s extremity, as a set of aesthetic choices and as a way of life, exerts an enduring fascination.



Debbie Millman
Roman Mars
Radio producer Roman Mars discusses the connection between ’zines and radio, why he ditched science and the reason he named his show “99% Invisible”.



Debbie Millman
John Flansburgh
John Flansburgh on being the son of a modernist architect, designing album covers for They Might Be Giants and of course, making music.


Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: Continuum’s 33 1/3 Series
The 33 1/3 books about classic albums are a perfect example of how design can help focus an editorial idea.


Michael Bierut
At the Movies with Javier Mariscal
Chico & Rita is a new animated film by Spanish designer Javier Mariscal and director Fernando Trueba.



Adrian Shaughnessy
Minotaurs in Suburban England
English designer Vaughan Oliver met Adrian Shaughnessy to show him preliminary work on a deluxe Pixies box set called Minotaur.



Rob Walker
Hearing Things
I have seen the future of rock and roll, and it’s merch. Of course, band-branded merchandise has been a major part of the music business, big and small, for years.



Rob Walker
The Song Decoders
Pandora, is convinced it can guide you, to music that you like. The premise is that your favorite songs can be stripped to parts and reverse-engineered.






Rob Walker
Hitting Rewind on the Cassette Tape
The romance associated with vinyl seems to apply to its longtime analog rival, the cassette.






Alexandra Lange
The Tigertones
I was thrilled by the metion of the Tigertones in this week's episode of Mad Men.



Teddy Blanks
Teddy Blanks on Figurines
Significant Objects is a much-discussed experiment conducted by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker. This story by Teddy Blanks is recorded as an MP3...



Teddy Blanks
Significant Objects: Porcelain Scooter
Significant Objects is a much-discussed experiment conducted by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker. The fourth of five stories is by Teddy Blanks...



Mark Lamster
Theirs Go to Twaalf
Meet Lamster (no relation), Belgium's ascendant metal goliath.



Mark Lamster
Michael Jackson, Automotive Designer
I know, Michael Jackson has done some terrible things. Tax evasion. Absconding with the Beatles catalog. Child molestation. We Are the World. But this — is design even the word for it?



Mark Lamster
A Horrible Machine
Check out my essay on the classic scout song "Dunderbeck" in the latest issue (no. 6) of the always gnaw-worthy Meatpaper.


Tom Vanderbilt
Fanfare for the Common Commuter
I’ve become a regular morning commuter on the city’s splendid Metro — the first in the world to employ only rubber tires on its cars. It didn’t take long for me to notice, as the trains departed, a curious trilogy of tones that echoed, along with the hum of the engine, through the concrete-chambered station. The notes, I realized with a start, were the beginning of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man.



Debbie Millman
Michael Hodgson
Michael Hodgson is a DJ and a designer and is co-founder of the design firm Ph.D.



Debbie Millman
Gordon Hull
An all-music show with DJ and designer Gordon Hull, co-founder of the firm Surface to Air.



Dmitri Siegel
Taking Things Seriously II




Adrian Shaughnessy
Tony Wilson: The Postmodern Mythmaker
Tony Wilson, founder of Factory records, died August 10. Wilson had many claims to fame: he was a successful television presenter; a music industry impresario of flawed and maverick genius; and he was one of the shrewdest patrons of graphic design there has ever been.



Liz Brown
Phil Spector vs. The Wall of Sound
Until 1966, producer Phil Spector was an unstoppable machine, churning out "symphonies for little kids." Then came "River Deep, Mountain High," where the combination of Tina Turner’s raw, unbridled passion and Spector’s orchestral swoon was a total disaster. Spector’s career was over, but the song goes on and on.



Richard Turley
Off the Grid
When you abandon most of the rules, how do you define a mistake? How to art direct a newspaper from the middle of the muddy Glastonbury music festival.



John Corbett
Sun Ra, Street Priest and Father of D.I.Y. Jazz
Before the 1950s, artist-owned record companies were unheard of, but Sun Ra pioneered the idea along with a couple of other musicians and composers. Sun Ra and Alton Abraham helped define the do-it-yourself ethic that came to be a central part of the American independent music industry, designing and in some cases manufacturing the covers themselves. In the process, they maintained a previously unimaginable degree of control over the look and content of their jazz releases.


Adrian Shaughnessy
Are JPEGs the New Album Covers?
An audio file with a thumbnail JPEG of the album cover will never have the resonance — not to mention the commercial value — of a well-made piece of packaging. But if the corporate providers of downloadable music have their way, this is the future of recorded music. Who ever had a love affair with a JPEG?



Michael Bierut
Cheap Music and Commercial Art
You wouldn’t know it from Dreamgirls, but Motown staff songwriters Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland were examples of how art is created under pressure.



Jessica Helfand
I'm Not Ready to Make Nice




Alissa Walker
War Is Over! If You Want It
When the star of the documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon is asked by a reporter what he thinks Nixon should do to end the Vietnam War, Lennon stares incredulously into the camera. "He should declare peace." As if this was the most obvious solution in the world.


Michael Bierut
Vinyl Fetish
A meditation on the joys of vinyl.



Dmitri Siegel
More Rules
The artwork for Beck's new album The Information immediately brings to mind the work of Sol LeWitt and the question of where the creative act is situated: in making the work or making the rules.



Dmitri Siegel
Broadcast vs. Broadband
Viral video is on the rise, spreading from broadband to broadcast and back again. What are the opportunities for designers in this new genre?



Michael Bierut
Wilson Pickett, Design Theorist, 1942 - 2006
Wilson Pickett's advice on hitmaking, "Harmonize, then customize," would make good advice for any designer.



Michael Bierut
Designing Twyla Tharp's Upper Room
Jennifer Tipton's lighting design for Twyla Tharp's dance piece, In the Upper Room, creates a magical experience for the audience and brings her often unseen art to the foreground.



Adrian Shaughnessy
Self-Initiated House Music
It is perhaps stretching definitions to say that Julian House has become a musician, but with the help of sampling technology and an array of digital audio tools, he makes striking and compelling audio assemblages, which have strong stylistic parallels with his collage-based graphic design.



Adrian Shaughnessy
Decoding Coldplay's X&Y
At a time when invisible data streams of binary information fed straight to our desktops are doing away with the need for album covers, it's odd to find a record sleeve as the subject of media comment and speculation. Odder still that the album cover in question — Coldplay's X&Y — should contain binary data as its central motif. Prophetic or what? The X&Y cover is agreeably eye-catching. You wouldn't call it a classic, but it has an unexpected severity that lifts it above the anodyne and cosmeticised design currently favoured by multi-platinum selling artists. It has dark echoes of Peter Saville's ephocal Factory covers.



Rick Poynor
But Darling of Course it’s Normal: The Post-Punk Record Sleeve
There have been collections of post-punk music and now, finally, there is British music critic Simon Reynolds' 500-page history of the genre from 1978 to 1984. It's a brilliant book. He argues that post-punk music's explosion of creativity equals the golden age of popular music in the mid-1960s, but that it has never received its full due. I think he's right.



Lawrence Weschler
The Aural As An Architectonic Challenge
What are the people over at Transom.org up to? As it happens, this month is a very good time to pay them a visit: for the next several weeks, Walter Murch — the phenomenally smart and inspired film and sound editor — will be continuing to hold court there.



Tom Vanderbilt
Rise and Fall of Rock and Roll Graphic Design
Has heavy metal graphic design run its course? Is the band logo as a species dead? And is there much of a future for the graphic representation of popular music itself?



Rick Poynor
Theory with a Small "t"
A critical writing determined by the need to shape practice will be limited in the cultural insights it can offer. This is the last thing that design writing needs when ways to engage a wider public could be opening up.



Observed


Tyler Perry puts the planned $800 million expansion of his studio in Atlanta on hold after seeing OpenAI’s text-to-video model Sora, which debuted Feb. 15. “Being told that it can do all of these things is one thing, but actually seeing the capabilities, it was mind-blowing,” he said. With AI, there’s no need to travel to locations or build specialized sets. The future impacts are concerning, he says. “[A]s I was looking at it, I immediately started thinking of everyone in the industry who would be affected by this, including actors and grip and electric and transportation and sound and editors, and looking at this, I’m thinking this will touch every corner of our industry.”

The racism in the yield curve: Groundbreaking research from Destin Jenkins, an assistant history professor at Stanford University, reveals how the $4 trillion municipal bond market has historically excluded Black taxpayers and disproportionately benefited infrastructure projects in white communities. (Jenkins’s research focuses on the American state, racial capitalism, and the built environment; you can watch him explain his research in a recent fireside chat with bond professionals here.)

Tesla is recalling 2.19 million vehicles because of a problem with a font. If you don’t think design matters at this point, you can’t be helped.

There’s a lot of plastic hidden in our clothes. Like, a lot.

Singapore is set to require all flights departing the country to use sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by 2026.

What’s in a label? Well, the truth, mostly. Lawsuits filed against  Gorton’sALDIConagraBumble Bee Foods, Mowi, and Red Lobster are challenging Big Fish to back up the sustainability and eco-friendly labels they put on their seafood products and brands. “From what I see, there’s a good chance at least some of the companies defending themselves are engaging in false advertising, although they may not realize what they’re doing,” says Arlin Wasserman, the founder of sustainability consultancy Changing Tastes.

Nex Benedict, a transgender teen from Oklahoma, died the day after their peers assaulted them in a school bathroom. They had been bullied for ages, but the assaults began in earnest a few months after Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill in 2022 that required public school students to use bathrooms that matched the sex listed on their birth certificates. This piece from the Independent provides essential context for the assault and details of Benedict’s life.

Chatbot versions of Adolph Hitler, Donald Trump, and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski are among 100 chatbot “characters” on the busy far-right social network Gab. Most of the characters are playing to type, spewing conspiracies about COVID-19, vaccines, U.S. elections, climate change, Holocaust denial, and more. It goes downhill from there.

“People came here or already lived here, young people with lots of energy and ideas and ideals who wanted to start things,” observes Syd Staiti, Executive Director of Small Press Traffic, a Bay Area poetry organization and archive. They're turning 50 this year—and they're not alone! Bravo to all the hard-working artists and arts organizations on this list—and here's to the next 50.

Self-disruption allows companies to stay ahead of the curve, anticipating and responding to changing market dynamics rather than reacting defensively; it fosters a culture of innovation, encouraging employees to think creatively and take calculated risks; and it can even open new revenue streams and markets, ensuring long-term sustainability. Sam Aquillano, the former Executive Director of the Design Museum in Boston, explains it all.

In New Jersey, the ballot is structured in a way that favors endorsed candidates. Three candidates are making a persuasive case on why this might be a critical design problem.

TikTok has become a target of parents, policymakers and regulators who are concerned about the company’s data-collection practices and the platform’s effect on young people’s mental health—including whether there is a risk for addictive design.

Australia's first moon rover rover will collect samples of lunar soil known as regolith, from which NASA will attempt to extract oxygen — a key step toward establishing a sustainable human presence on the moon and producing rocket fuel to support future missions to Mars. And they need design help.

Thai graphic designer Chalermpol Jittagasem has created a new typeface family to help immigrants improve their English pronunciations. “I've seen so many Asian Americans subjected to truly cruel shaming for speaking English with a strong accent and incorrect pronunciation, even though they, like me, are living in the most diverse state in the US,” he says. 

Design Justice AI was announced in 2023; the Global Humanities Institute is sponsored by the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes and the Mellon Foundation and is a partnership of four university-based centers at Rutgers, University of Pretoria, Australia National University, and University of Connecticut. Things are gearing up for a summer meeting in Pretoria; bookmark and follow along. 

Marsha Ann Maytum, founding principal of Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects (LMSA) and longtime champion of environmental, social, and justice causes, has died at 69. “Her quiet, tenacious brand of leadership is notable, especially in a profession where ego often proliferates,” says architect Kim Gould.  “It is as if her enormous humility gave her a change maker superpower, to the point that thinking ‘what would Marsha do’ is something others actually do.”

“But what you don't know is that that sweater is not just blue, it's not turquoise, it's not lapis, it's actually cerulean.” Miranda Priestly, the deliciously vicious fashion editor from The Devil Wear Prada, will be back in the U.K. spotlight in a new musical adaptation of the novel and film from Elton John. Vanessa Williams will be playing the devil herself

Restoration AI? Architects and designers have been using AI to help manage large data sets and visualize ideas for better decision-making. But can AI tools also help assess structural damage in aging infrastructure and underresourced communities? 

Anywhere this is a camera, this is a risk

In Chicago: A Love Supreme.

“For decades, Charlene Prempeh writes, ”Black designers have been sheathed in an invisible cloak.” Her new book uncovers just a few of the cracks and erasures and oversights: from postwar African-American cartoonist Jackie Ormes, to mid-century West African riffs on “Tropical Modernist” architecture pioneered by John Owusu Addo and Oluwole Olumuyiwa, to the rise of more recent Black British fashion stars like Bianca Saunders and Samuel Ross, this is one exhilerating (and expansive!) list.

Glen Weldon—host of NPR's buzzy Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast— calls the Yorgos Lanthimos film Poor Things a weird and intoxicating and unforgettable “visual tasting menu”—and makes his own (rather compelling) case for why it should win this year's Oscar for Production Design.

Design-led accessibility … at Starbucks.

Apple's longest-ranking designer, Bart Andre, is retiring. (Andre joined Apple in 1992 with Jonathan Ive.) Andre is also one of the biggest holders of Apple patents.

Monotype’s recently launched A.I. font-pairing tool inspired this Valentine’s Day piece in Print on type pairs that designers just love. Font obsessives: put on your do-not-disturb, pour yourself a cup of tea, and prepare to be triggered/delighted.

What if the designers showing in New York Fashion Week created looks for (super stylish) working shlubs?

Forty years ago, Joy Gregory, the first Black woman to earn an MA in Photography at the Royal College of Art in London, recognized the beauty and power coming from the emerging cohort of Black women photographers in London. Her idea, long dormant, has finally become “Shining Lights: Black Women Photographers in 1980s–90s Britain,” a new photography book edited by Gregory and co-published by Autograph and Mack. Chapters explore community and activism, kinship and family ties, travel and landscape photography, and joy. 

Yoko Ono has instructions for you (via the Tate Modern.)

Why aren’t we all at Mexico City Art Week? Turns out we are! The digital nomads, tourists, Instagram influencers, and hordes of aspirational curators are making the Zona Maco Fair a logistical and economic nightmare for locals. 

Fast Company’s Rob Fabricant has written the long read of the modern design era: what are we to make of the now clearly diminished role of design — and design leadership — in corporate life? “The very people who advocated successfully for a ‘seat at the table’ when design first made inroads into big business (and jump-started thousands of creative careers) find themselves at major crossroads with fewer seats left,” he writes. Is big business done with “design thinking,” or is the trend more personal? 



Jobs | February 24