#1 – Keep It Simple.
Simple can leave an unforgettable impression.
Take a look at The Beatles “White Album” or Ed Sheerans latest chartbuster. Both designs are so simple yet so recognizable. Designs don’t always need to be elaborate & complicated to be great. So don’t just brush off “simple” as unimpressive or unprofessional. Your design will be great as long as it’s done well, utilizes good images, and has an interesting concept that your fans will relate to.
#2 – Matching Visuals to the Music
It’s a good idea to have your designer listen to the album to ensure that the visuals match the music as well as the artist or band culture. It has been said to never judge a book by its cover but it’s also been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Lets face it, these have become clichés for a good reason…they happen to be true and your album art has to speak to both. #1: Give someone a reason to look at your musical offering in a more interested way and #2 give them a glimpse into what they might hear when they listen. What emotions might they feel while listening? What type of memories might it conjure up in their mind? What places might the sounds take them too? Using these tools can definitely be helpful when coming up with the concept.
#3 – Look Beyond the Album Cover
You’ll want to use your album cover design in as many different ways as possible so you’ll want to consider how the design will look on more than just the CD. How will this design look on stickers, posters, or postcards? How about on T-Shirts? What if it’s being advertised in black & white? Maybe even on a big billboard in Times Square? And don’t forget about smartphones or tablets. How does the design look on a screen at various sizes? How does the contrast look when small? What sticks out? What can’t be seen or read? Sometimes, a small tweak is all it takes to ensure that the album design works well in any numbers of sizes. Try to keep the whole package in mind when designing so you can take advantage of several platforms to promote and sell your music.
#4 – Original Is Important
Don’t just take a cool picture you found on the internet without permission & blur it a little thinking no one will know. If you don’t own it, don’t use it. If you like it, find out who does own it and ask for permission to. Sometimes, you can work it out so that just a mention of the artist or photographer will do. Maybe the owner is a fan and a credit somewhere in the liner notes will suffice. Possibly just a signed copy of the finished album will do? Other times it may be monetary compensation that the owner is looking for. It never hurts to ask but it CAN hurt if you don’t and can lead to severe legal consequences in some cases.
#5 – Feedback Helps
One of the hardest things for an artist to do is to accept and process both positive and negative feedback. You become attached to your work in ways that can sometimes lead you to lose sight of the vision as a whole. It’s always a good idea to ask people around you for feedback. They can sometimes see things that you cannot because you’re so close & attached to your project. It’s OK to listen to criticism & make tweaks & changes. It’s also OK stick to your guns. Just make sure that you’re not sticking to an idea or concept because of ego and recognize that an outsider sometimes has the ability to see it with fresh eyes & without the personal attachment. Don’t go too far with this and turn the project into what we call “design by committee.” Nothing could be less helpful or efficient. So, pick a small focus group of people you respect and work with them only.
One of the biggest mistakes we see is not using proper templates or overall specs for the printer. Make them part of the process by understanding what they need from you and how to supply the print ready art to avoid costly reprints and lost time.