Yes. People STILL make CDs. And they sell. Granted, not like they used to, but there are still music fans out there for whom the physical package is an important part of owning an album. — I count myself among that small herd.

For music packaging and other so-called “dying print media” the challenge is adding value.

When people can easily download an album, watch a movie, or read a magazine online immediately and often for free (or cheap), the experience of owning that piece of media in physical form has to be greater than the reality of getting it without the package. It’s our job as designers to add that value in the form of imagery, and design that enriches the experience.

My view, as a designer of music packaging, has always been that my design work should interpret the artists’ themes and vision for a project in a way that supports their meaning. If an album is celebratory and upbeat, so should the design. If it’s introspective and dark, the pack should be likewise.

For music packaging and other so-called “dying print media” the challenge is adding value.

My music clients are, for the most part, far from household names. They’re the musicians who often have day jobs and their tours take them to places like Fort McMurray, Prince George, and Thunder Bay. They don’t sell out arenas. They sell out community halls and churches. And because they don’t have big labels marketing on their behalf, they sell their CDs from tables at the back of the hall along with buttons and t-shirts.

For my clients, a professionally designed CD package, makes the difference between selling 200 albums and 2000 albums and the cover art has to entice the show-goer by presenting their vision (and their professionalism) at the point of sale. A well-designed package supports their decision to buy it. It tells fans that the artist takes themselves, and their career, seriously and sets expectations for what they’ll hear when they get it home. An album with graphics they won’t feel ashamed to show their friends later. Good cover art reflects well on the artist and it makes it easier for people to purchase.

While it’s possible these days to have an online company do cover art for a few hundred dollars, those covers seldom, if ever, reflect who the artist is, or what the music is about. My process with musicians, as with all my clients, includes a discovery or interview process whereby I try to get to know them and what they’re trying to say. The first idea is seldom the final idea and we wrestle with subtleties until it’s right. And only then does it become the design that has added value to the music and only then does it rival a free download or pirated stream.

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