Thomas Adey

Yes Album Cover Re-imagined

The Project Brief

This project is hugely inspired by the philosophy of the late Vaughan Oliver, a designer from North East England who designed album covers for popular bands including: Pixies, The Breeders, Cocteau Twins and many others. His philosophy was antithetical to the generic approach to album covers at that time, which often featured primarily the band members itself, instead encouraging the study and visualisation of the essence of the music itself into the cover.

The brief required me to listen to an album from a set of popular bands, including Yes: Close To The Edge, apply Vaughan’s philosophy in how I experience the music, and work towards making an original album cover, as if this album were a new release that nobody had ever heard of. The brief also required an adaptation of these assets into a unique limited edition artifact that a super-fan would die for!

The Process

My research began by experiencing the music, over and over and over again. I mapped out the overall theme of the music, points of intensity, climax, and picked apart the lyrics of the song to generate my personal vision of the song without outside influence. My gathering of the song was that of a journey related to religion and the afterlife, and the journey of the soul of somebody dead by sorrow as they bear witness to the apocalypse. I took this information and plotted several routes, including the aspect of nature overcoming boundaries and the abstract energy of the music. The most successful route was the latter, as I found that I could depict the energy very well with the flowing and weeping of ink in liquid. I began with small cups of water, recording how it reacted to drops of food colouring. I tried freezing the pigments and letting them melt away. I added viscous oils, saline soy sauce, and even milk to affect the composition. I tried larger vessels, and set up a macro-lens camera with somebody to help take pictures (thank you, Maria Munguambe).

The difficulty of this brief was figuring out how to condense so much into so little. I experimented with blackletter as a way to incorporate the religious themes, and enjoyed the process of having it mingle between streams of inks.

The End Result

The final outcome contrasts dynamic weeping inks that represent the energy of the music with grandiose, eloquent manuscript blackletter – the same kind that would be found in religious texts dating centuries ago. These components visualise the essence of the music, alongside my perception of its story. I designed an artifact to go alongside the cover, acting as a lamp that has glass panes with layers of ink that can be taken out and rearranged, allowing fans to create their own version of the album cover. As an additional asset, I also worked on a vinyl design that captures the movement of the ink with the lyrics of the songs themselves on each side – something possible only because this album has only three songs!

This project was joint winner of the Vaughan Oliver Graphic Design Scholarship in 2023.

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