…I am Ed.
My name is Ed Adams, and I’m a designer, an illustrator, an artist, and if you want to play the title game - I’m an Art Director. I work in the NJ / NYC metro area and create things that people look at everyday; on the street and on the internet, I’ve worked on projects with the big budgets of fortune 500s to less lucrative jobs for bands and record labels. I thrive on both print and interactive; I’m able to handle everything from concept to flash development and I can act as a liaison between creative and technology with my working knowledge of both backend and frontend code [hopefully saving everyone a few years on their life expectancy]. I’m painfully organized, obsessed with “a christmas story”, and I can’t stand it when my glass coffee table has smudges. Ultimately, it all comes down to one thing: I love to make pictures.

If you’d like to talk about what kind of picture you need made [static or interactive], or you just want to talk about my typography, drop me a line at ed[at]flickertoflame.com and we can sit down, drink some tea, and have a chat.

Plus, you can always track my every move @ twitter (if I’m not being lazy) or head on over to LinkedIn for more professional info. Plus, you can always view the main purpose of flickertoflame.com: my portfolio.

lpNow that I’ve got your attention—maybe because you’re actually interested in vinyl, or maybe because you think I’m a total hipster for writing about this—let me make a prediction: The CD is slowly going the way of the buffalo, moving over for the ultimate takeover of the digital download, and our friendliest audiophile format is quickly experiencing a rebirth and a lifespan that will likely continue for longer than once thought. Designers should be rejoicing — This affords us the opportunity to once again look at the music layout as it was originally born: a 12”x12” canvas (ok, the cut dimensions are slightly different, just let me get away with that one), rather than the confined limits of a 4.75” x 4.75” (see, I got more specific) CD booklet.  The digipac offered us some expansion into the pseudo-vinyl packaging when it first appeared (i.e. Pearl Jam’s Vs. and Vitalogy), but as I’ve experienced – it’s nothing like designing for an LP release, which (un)fortunately is even a new format for my work.

billieholiday.ramones.rundmc.parliament

As you may know, record packaging wasn’t originally meant to be the artistic canvas that we’ve turned it into.  It was simple protection; just a sleeve that the listener could keep the LP in to avoid damage. It was essential as the records started off being made with a shellac compound before they became the vinyl records that we know today. It was utilitarian, and that’s great, but look what artist’s did with it over the years — old jazz records set the standard for cool, the cut and paste movement of punk rock triggered the destruction of “package design” as it was known, the revolution of both design (and use) that hip hop brought to the record – my god, even funk records were groundbreaking, as ghastly as their design may seem today.

I don’t want to make this into too much of a history lesson, since there are many people out there that know much more information about the minutiae of the LP record’s legacy – I’ll leave the additional research to wikipedia and the like. My goal here is just to pour over the excitement that I have at the potential of designing more and more full size LP layouts, which was something I thought would die off completely as vinyl plants shut down and the cost to produce LPs skyrocketed.  I started off collecting vinyl in high school, since it was the standard format for many of the punk rock and hardcore records that I wanted.  At first, it was out of necessity if I wanted to get my hands on the music that I liked, but it soon became a craving for me – there was something more to the format than the CD. I never had that same “christmas morning” feeling opening up a CD as I did when tearing the shrink wrap off of a brand new LP – and then I discovered colored vinyl. I was in heaven.

Now don’t get me wrong, CDs have had their amazing layouts and packaging concepts, just like LPs have experienced some questionable design, there is just something more tactile and engaging about LPs because of the sheer scale of the design and the process involved in playing back the audio. Sometimes I have to think that their allure is almost dependent on the existance of the CD; you can’t define good without evil, peace without war (take it easy – I’m not saying CDs are evil). Having the tiny layouts of the CD infiltrate the music market was certainly an upgrade from the cassette, in both audio quality and layout potential, but it phased out a far superior audio quality (according to the many audiophile philosophies out there, of which I don’t necessarily subscribe to, but that’s another post entirely about the mastering process, quality of the vinyl itself, etc.) and in my opinion, a much more flexible and captivating packaging format. The scale of the CD has its benefits, for storage and portability, and the CD itself has always been a much simpler format in terms of the listening process. The thing is, vinyl has always been reserved for my favorite records, or the records that came out during a time when it was the only format available; records that I want to take time to listen to; records that I want to associate a meticulous listening process with; records that I became engrossed with during a time when music was my saving grace.

As the MP3 became more and more prominent within the last 5+ years, I began to fear a dismantling of the art & music design process, or at the very minimum – a cheapening of the quality and care that goes into music layouts, and finding my biggest career goal to be essentially phased out. However, with a fresh perspective and some examples to prove it, I’ve realized that it’s not the end of music packaging as an art form, it’s a start to a new era.  There may be a lot of music that is solely released digitally (mostly the chart toppers), but a lot of music that I gravitate toward will have an easier time releasing their material on vinyl and including a free (in cost and DRM, please!) companion download, so we can get it on to our newfangled mobile devices, without having to worry about the analogue conversion.  That was always my hurdle: having to buy the record on two formats in order to listen to it on anything other than a turntable. We now are fortunate to have a combination of formats that shouldn’t increase price, but will allow for a flexibility in quality and portability that we’re only just beginning to experience and ultimately fall in love with all over again.

I guess that’s what records are about to me: They have a much more emotional connection, and they deserve the scale and alluring art to grab your attention just as the music would.  It’s the act of combining music and art that gives me a sense of accomplishment in both the creative process and the reward of holding the final product, when I’ve been lucky enough to get the chance to design it. There’s nothing quite like it, and when I want to get that feeling of my first punk rock show again, I can always buy a new record, or pull one out of my collection and somehow relive that time. Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s a sheer appreciation of art in both music and the visual, but whatever it is, it makes me excited to create; excited to draw; excited to do what I’ve always known as my creative passion.

My latest layout is for a New York band called De La Hoya, who unfortunately broke up in 2001, but went on to form such stellar bands as Marathon and Nakatomi Plaza (Go and see the layout here).  With De La Hoya’s discography release, entitled “The Sound of Our Own Decay”, they already had a plan for a gatefold double-LP design, but not much more than that, so they reached out to me to handle the illustration and design. It was an honor for me, after having listened to them for so long and playing so many shows during their post-De La Hoya projects while I was in The Procedure. We’re talking almost 24”x12” of glorious LP package design surface for me to explore on the inside gatefold. In conjunction with this double LP release, there is an included digital download. This is the way to do it, and what I hope we’ll be seeing more and more of with independent record labels who will once again be able to afford to release these records on vinyl. I don’t necessarily expect the big record labels to switch formats and start stocking the store shelves with vinyl again as the sole medium for tangible music purchases, but for the independent-label-leaning listener, it’s going to be a lot more common and easier to get our hands on.

de_la_hoya_lp


Further Reading on the rebirth of Vinyl:

LINKS:
Radiohead
Pearl Jam
Elvis Costello
Think Fast! Records
Rolling Stone: Vinyl Sales almost double in 2008.
Rolling Stone “Vinyl Returns in the Age of MP3”
Animal Collective hit the charts with Vinyl only (download included)


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