Archive for the 'Concepts & Design' Category


Cover: 2008-06-18 – Philadelphia – blegdave boot

Cover for the blegdave boot of Philadelphia added, again using photos from the show from Ultraviolet1.


Cover: 2008-06-18 – Philadelphia – Chris K Boot


Cover: 2008-06-01 – Berkeley – Fuman Boot

Had some nices images still for Berkeley so I did different front and inlay for the Fuman recording, labels are the same. Should be on the site for download in the next day or so.


Cover: 2008-06-01 – Berkeley Night 2


Cover: 2008-05-31 – Berkeley Night 1

The cover picture for this design changed , mainly due to the fact I  ended up using a better picture of Peter on the Second night cover.


Cover: 2008-05-29 – Hollywood Bowl


Concept Diary: Working Rehearsals (Grunge)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year all!.

After a long wait I’ve finally got around to working on some more cover, including the long awaited Grunge Versions of the Dublin Working Rehearsal shows. I have completed three covers of the five shows. So the covers should be up hopefully by the weekend.

So here’s a preview of what being off working for a couple of weeks can do.

PRE-HISTORY – In the week after the Dublin shows I started work on concepts for the cover. Originally I had a grunge theme in mind to match the free form unstructured feel of the shows. While looking for suitable show photos for the project I can across Jane Macneil’s images on her flickr page. They where amazing minimalistic photos, the majority of which were the band members on a black background and this lead me to the idea of the clean version. And with this new inspiration I completed the Clean Version. Its then hard to redo a cover you’ve completed so I lack of motivation stalled work on the grunge versions. I’d promised people that it would be the next cover’s I posted so work on other projects came to a halt as well. Then there was much playing of Battlefield 2 and Call of Duty 4, then there was work, and Christmas etc etc.

Before I go any further I’d like to thank some of the folks that provided resources for this project. Without the work of these people, the free cover I create would not be possible.

Firstly I’d like to again thank Jane Macneil for the great photos from the Dublin shows, not only did she get amazing photos but she was more than happy to let me use them on multiple designs.

Secondly I’d like to acknowledge the DeviantArt Texture group Resurgere for the fantastic resources they provide to non-commercial projects like mine. Click on the logo below to view more of there work.

Below is the Resurgere texture used as the base for the Dublin Grunge design.

Other resources used for this project was a set of Photoshop brushes called BrushPack01 by Ariel Gualtruzzi. You can see the two brushes used to create the photo backgrounds to the right of the image below.

The two typefaces used in the design are Steak by Last Soundtrack and Qlassik by Dimitri Castrique.

Here is the current concept of the five cover designs

UPDATE 01 – Since the shows were identified by either their date or by which night of the 5 shows it was, I decided to play around with sticker labels that indicated the which of the five nights the cover was for. I’m not currently sure if this adds or subtracts from the overall design.

I think the sticker will go. I like the idea but think I might use it on a cover down the track.

UPDATE 02 – The other element I’ve been toying with on this design is a barcode. Why? you may ask, as this is not a commercial project, and wont be sold in any store. And I think the answer I have to give is… conditioning. When I look at my cover they seem incomplete and missing something and I think it’s because when I look at commercial covers they all have barcodes. Even though it’s not needed I’m toying with the idea of throwing one in but it could be just a passing phase.

UPDATE 03 – Another update and we are getting closer. Heres a preview of all the covers, labels and inlays…not long now 🙂


Slovenia 1999 DVD [Reconstruction]

Inspiration for a cover design can come from a number of places. Usually it has a lot to do with what resources are available.

With this audience recording of the 1999 Slovenia show I had very little to work with. The footage image quality wasn’t good enough to get a nice still I could use. Being an older show it’s a lot harder to find audience photos. In this case the best thing to do is to create something from scratch. The key to making this sort of cover work is using strong design elements.

DeviantArt is an amazing community of extremely talented people that inspire and challenge each other.

The resource section there has been indispensable. Not only am I using DA resources on more work (See Storytellers, Warsaw and the new Springsteen set) but I find it is an inspiration for new covers. The Slovenia cover is a perfect example. Knowing I had no photo resources I was on the look out for a striking image or texture. I found a great image that I loved but I couldn’t get a response from the DA member on whether I could use it on my non-profit work. So Slovenia was put on the shelf, at least for a couple of weeks while I worked on the Springsteen “Love, Tears & Mystery” CD cover set. I browsed the DA resources section daily and last week a post just leapt out at me. It was a texture posted by asunderstock which was described as “A grunge texture I made using a ton of my brushes”. You can see the texture below, click on it to go to it’s DA page.

Software: Adobe Photoshop CS2

The first thing I did was to add the text. I used one of my favourite typographic layout techniques of scaling the type to fixed widths. This produces a block text that’s very easy to work with and is very strong as a design element. Luckily, REM is a short word, meaning it’s always a larger size that the other type.

The typeface used is “Hit the Road” by Matthew Welch.

To get the layers to blend I turned the layers blend mode to overlay.

Multiplies or screens the colors, depending on the base color. Patterns or colors overlay the existing pixels while preserving the highlights and shadows of the base color. The base color is not replaced but is mixed with the blend color to reflect the lightness or darkness of the original color.

– Photoshop Manual

Basically, this blends the layer into the image behind it in a certain way. Below you can see the original type on a white background. Below that is the text on the final background with ‘overlay’ on. This gives a really good old scuffed type look, but not really good for the main titles of a DVD cover. I had to duplicate the text layer two more time to build up the type to an acceptable level which you can see in the third image. It’s a lot darker but has kept the distressed look and because the distressed markings are based on the background layer the two blended together more naturally.

So here is the type over the original textured background. I have flipped the background because this created a better distribution of ‘white’ space for the rest of the design.

I then filled a layer above the texture with an earthy skin tone and set its layer mode to ‘darken’. This means any colour darker than it will show through the layer. See below.

I worked with the design like this for a while but it was just missing something. In my daily browse of DA I always check out the work of texturemattic (amazing texture photographer). He had posted a retrospective of some of the older textures artists on DA. One image was by thespook, a simple distressed wall texture but exactly what I was looking for.

I changed my original background colour to 30% and then added the new layer also putting its layer mode to darken and I was extremely happy with the result. It gave the image a beautiful colour and gave it a bit more depth. If you compare it to the previous version you’ll see how flat it looked.

At this point that was all I was going to do for the cover. The problem was apart from the titles it didn’t really tie in with the band at all. It actually looked like a poster for some post apocalyptic horror film. To solve this I need to use an image related to the band. An archive shot wouldn’t work. It would be very tough to work it into the design and colour. After looking at the design again there was only one thing that was going to lend itself to the design…silhouette. I went through the photo archive and found a photo of the band members standing in a full-length photo. Each band member was traced in Photoshop. The black suits made it easy to select and fill in black (although that wall pattern made it a longer process than it needed to be) and then using a layer mask I added or subtracted the other parts. I had to scale Michael down a little to match the others in the band.

I then added the silhouette to the design using the same process at the text.

The overlay mode worked beautifully making the silhouettes look like they had been hatched into the original texture, and the imperfections just add to the look. I love the complete drop out of colour in Mike Mills head.

So that was the cover done. Time to start on the back of the DVD. This time I used the texture in its original orientation because it suited the required layout of elements. As there was going to be smaller elements and more of them on the back I didn’t want as much of the dirty texture. Using a ‘colour dodge’ layer blend mode I duplicated the background several times to reduce the amount of ‘noise’.

I wanted to ‘lift’ the tracklisting off the cover somehow. My first experiments were with pieces of scrap paper and notepads, but as my girlfriend pointed out it really wasn’t matching the feel of the design. The cover was industrial grunge and a notepad just didn’t fit. In the end I had to agree with her. Hate it when she’s right!

So if not paper then the next logical choice was metal! I sourced Stock Xchange for all manner of metallic signs looking for a suitable one. I tried a number of completely eroded factory signs and a number of street signs but none felt right. Then I found this small dirty machine plate (photo taken by Jeremy Bank). I did a standard ‘clone tool’ job to remove the text from the original and then had to do some copying and blending to get it to the right size.

Next came placement on the back cover Since most of the other elements were going to be standard horizontal text I rotated the plate just so the design wasn’t perfectly aligned and linear.

I then needed to make the plate look more like it was part of the scene rather than just sitting on top of it. First was a dropshadow to lift it off the page a little. I always change the opacity setting of the shadow to about 40%, the Photoshop default is always to harsh and drop shadows need to be subtle.

I wanted to add mildew or slime down behind the metal plate. I knew this would give the impression it was more anchored to the background rather than just sitting on top. I knew the exact effect I wanted and after unsuccessfully looking on Stock Xchange I decide just to make it myself.

I selected a rectangle in Photoshop and filled with the extremely useful ‘render cloud’ filter. Next I applied a ‘wind’ filter to get the jaggered line effect. I then had to skew the image so it followed the angle of the image but still have the streaks going straight down.

I also needed a dark area to put behind the DVD info box. Originally I just had a black square at 50% opacity so it was just darker brown but it was a little too rigid so with a splatter brush I painted some extra areas bleeding out into the page.

For both of these I applied the ‘overlay’ layer mode to blend them in with the background. This worked beautifully for both, giving the exact look I was after (see close up below).

The last thing I did to work the plate into the image was to overlay some of the background texture over the top. I used the ‘selection’ tool to select the black portions of the background image and paste them on a new layer above the plate and used a layer effect to soften it off a bit.

For the tracklisting I wanted a handwritten typeface. After testing a few I settled on Notepad. Most of the other typefaces I tried looked a bit to…… ‘friendly’ is the only way I can describe it. I like the way the black texture crosses over and covers up parts of the text. It’s still ledgeable but isn’t just straight forward.

I had to lighten up the texture where the credit text went because it was a bit hard to read. The DVD info box is a template layout that I use on most of my DVD covers because it’s a nice concise way to present the technical information. The screenshots I needed to desaturated a little to tone them back because they were a bit too bright and colourful for the other colours used on the cover.

You can see and Download the final 200dpi version at or

You can download the DVD from Murmurs BitTorrent tracker. This is a P2P service that trades in non-commercial REM material.

Hope this entry has been informative and help some people get ideas. Thanks to all the people who’s resources I have used.


Cover: Live at Yonge Street (2001-05-17)

REM performed a free show on the streets of Toronto, Canada to promote the album ‘Reveal’ which was released in North America 2 days prior to this show. The concert on the corners of Yonge and Dundas Street was film and broadcast in Canada by the adult music channel ‘Much More Music’.

As with a number of DVDs, I design the menu interface for the DVD as well as the cover art. With Yonge St. I started with concepts for the interface and then that idea was carried over to the cover art.

One of the main features of the show was the torrential rain that hit just after the show started. Michael even broke into an impromptu rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Have You Ever Seen The Rain?’ It was this downpour that lead to to concept of blue vertical lines as the background.

No flash installed

The background element was created in Macromedia Flash using semi-transparent blue rectangles horizontally scaling while moving across the screen. As the boxes overlap the various levels of transparency combine to make difference shades of blue. Once the movieclip was the right length and seemlessly loopable it was output to an avi video.The avi was then placed in Adobe After Effects. It was in this program that the title text was created. Using the ‘corner pin’ effect to do a slight 3D rocking motion, a layer effect was then applied to get the text layer and the background layer to interact with each other.

This effect meant that when parts of the backgound became the same shade of blue as the text it would essentially block parts of the text. This gave the design a multi-layered appearance as if the text was moving through the blue banding.

Originally this was where I was intending to leave it but I thought that it was still missing something. In the end I decided to edit up 3 short clips from the show, making sure to include all three members (I always try to get all of them in). I overlayed this footage over the entire menu. Basically, the final loop consisted of 3 segments joined together.

The music used in the menu was an instumental version of ‘All the Way to Reno’, the second single from ‘Reveal’. Whenever I use audio I try to make the loop seamless but this is near impossible on DVD plays because there’s always a pause while it looks.

The other issue with DVD menus is that when you output the file to VOB (the dvd format) the menus always seem to change colour. The menu was meant to be a brighter more vibrant blue (see cover image below) but once it was output it because a murky grey blue which I was a little disappointed with.

I liked the background so much from the video it was an obvious choice for the cover as well. I scrubbed through the background video and took some grabs of some random compsitions.

As with most of these broadcast shows the only resource I had to work with was the DVD footage itself. So once again I had to deal with enlarging images and covering up the loss in quality this presents. I’d taken a number of screen grabs from the footage and after deciding on the profile shot of Michael for the cover I then masked out the background and used a layer effect to blend it into the background. I scaled the image so Michael would take up most of the front cover and the and microphone would wrap around to the back cover. This ties the two together and helps give an overall unified design. The mic also acted as a natural break on the back, nicely sectioning off areas for a blurb and disc information.

One element I really liked was the REM text repeated across the screen. I think this turned out wonderfully and the colours look great. I’m not one to use much yellow in design but I think it suited this design beautifully.


REM’s 25th Anniversary

April 5th is a momentous day on the REM music calendar, this year especially. It marks REM’s 25th Anniversary. It was on that date in 1980 that the 4 members first took the stage together at a birthday party in Athens Georgia at the old church they lived in. Ethan from Murmurs came up with the idea of doing a website for the occasion that would act like a kind of guestbook where people could leave a message for the band. I designed the site in Photoshop based on a simple outline from Ethan, and Ethan with help from Mihkel in Estonia put the site together. You can check it out at The site has proved very popular and is even getting a mention on the official REM web page.

While designing the site it went through a few incarnations until I got a look I liked. I wanted to come up with some iconic design that could be used to promote the site and perhaps be used on merchandise. One of the first elements I came up with (that I liked so much I used on pretty much every concept) was a silhouette of the band. I didn’t want to use a photo because a photo can be dated too easily and as the site was celebrating the bands 25 year history I thought a silhouette would be more timeless.

Originally the design consisted of only the current three members of the band in the red but every time I looked at it I got a glimmer of guilt for leaving Bill Berry out. He was a huge influence of the band for 17 years and since the site was a tribute to the bands entire history I decided to add him. To give the sense that he was part of the band but apart I added Bill in a different colour (mustard) behind the other 3 members. This decision would make the typographical design that I had to do next a lot easier. I wanted to use an elongated typeface and decided on one I love called Placard. I needed 3 colours to separate the 3 word in the title because I wasn’t using spaces. The 2 colours I had used for the silhouette and grey worked very well.

I came up with some body copy just as filler for the design, I was quite happy to see that Ethan kept almost all of it for the final design:

It has been a long and interesting road for REM, the band that started in a church in Athens, GA on April 5, 1980. After forging a fan base by non-stop touring and never compromising on their creative goal, REM worked their way to the top of the music world. REM’s music speaks to countless people around the world. On this their 25th anniversary, it’s time for their fans to give back to them. Leave your images and messages here as a way to say, “Thank you REM.”

I recently designed all the new merchandise for Murmurs and thought it would be fantastic to add a range of limited edition products for the anniversary. You can check out the range of new products here I must say the stuff is selling really well. Thanks to all those people who are buying them. The proceeds from sales go to support Murmurs and more projects such as this.

Another thing I wanted to do for the site was provide some wallpapers people could download so they could have something commemorative on there desktops. I had got a decent number of photos from a variety of European show taken by Robert Chapman. The photos had a fantastic blurred, almost multiple expose on them, and as I found out when I tried to take photos at an REM show it was due to the camera requiring a long expose and therefore the lighting giving a small time-lapse effect. Anyway, a lot were too blurry to use but some where pure art and I wanted to share them on a wider scale so this was perfect.