Local band Popular Mechanics didn't set out to create award-winning packaging, but that's what happened when the regional branch of a national design organization recently recognized the brilliance of the group's latest album art.
This spring, the St. Louis chapter of the AIGA, a professional organization for graphic design, crowned Popular Mechanics' album Anti-Glacial as a winner in its annual design awards competition -- an honor bestowed upon just 30 winners out of nearly 400 entries under consideration. The album packaging -- produced in a limited run for vinyl only -- features custom typography and triangle cutouts on a cover that opens to reveal a painting of the band. AIGA exhibited the art during its exclusive annual design show at the Center of Creative Arts in University City.
The album art was a big undertaking, but vocalist/guitarist Dave Todd says the time simply was right for a project of this magnitude.
"It's an idea I've been kicking around for a few years," Todd tells RFT Music about the creative direction. "There were different versions, none of which were as good as this turned out. Hence, why I needed Andy and Jim."
"Andy" and "Jim" are guitarist Andy Brandmeyer, who joined Popular Mechanics about a year ago, and designer James Walker, one of the founders of graphic design firm Husbandmen. Both men contributed greatly to the Todd's vision for the album, with Brandmeyer's painting serving as the focal point around which Walker built the design's creative direction. The image, shown below, depicts Brandmeyer's perspective of Popular Mechanics' four band members during the songwriting process.
"When Dave approached me about having my hand in the artwork for the album, I was stoked," Brandmeyer says. "He gave me some compositional ideas and mentioned Jim's idea of negative triangular spaces as part of the design on the cover."
Todd and Walker had previously discussed using cutouts in album art, but Brandmeyer's painting cemented the idea and steered the direction of the cover, with his painting peeking through.
"The layout was based on Andy's painting," Walker says. "Triangles were placed using a phi grid but still showed the characters in the painting."
Even the typography is custom, with Walker designing a Dali-like sans-serif to spell out "Anti-Glacial" between the negative-space triangles on the front cover and using a mid-century modern font for the band's name and track list.
"Dave and I did have a conversation about some initial layouts looking a bit predictable," Walker says. "So Dave sort of forced me into pushing the typography a bit further, which was great."
Continue for more about the art for Anti-Glacial and a music video from Popular Mechanics.