Wednesday, September 26

To The Sun

I forgot to post this last month. It's the Maps artwork in the Sun, and it's on my favorite page, Victoria Newton's Bizarre.

There are no mountains left for me to conquer. Good night.

Monday, September 24

Building the Middle of Nowhere Poster.

I thought it might be interesting to dissect a piece of work and talk through all the layers that go into something. Plus I'm a bit 'Mondayed' today and this is quite a relaxing thing to do.

So the brief was for a festival to take place in next year in Northampton called 'Middle of Nowhere'. I knocked together a load of obvious festival-looking ideas before I got anywhere close to something interesting. I wanted to avoid the whole Summer of 69 vibe, illustrations of flowers and trees, summer and sun, love and peace and harmony because let's be honest festivals aren't about that anymore.

(You might need to right click the picture on the right and have it open in another window to follow the steps).

ONE. So this is the starting point. I wanted an empty sky that had some drama and a little bit of detail. I found this on Flickr on a search for sky and fog. It took a while, but it was perfect.

TWO. The next step was to colour the frame to make it look more dramatic and flattern the tomes a little. I added a couple of layers of distorted pigment that I found on iStock Photo and used the Hard Light filter to make these sit on top of the photo and let the detail and scruffiness bleed through.

THREE. I wanted to age the poster, in a non-trite way. I really liked the US posters for Death Proof, they were artificially aged really well, so I borrowed that kind of look. I wanted them to look like they'd been folded in someone's loft for 30 years and the gloss has all stuck together and ripped off when it was pulled apart.

FOUR. For the title of the festival I wanted to build something illustrative into the photograph and not simply overlay the type on top of it. I played about with several ideas including a reel of film and a cinema canopy, but eventually I decided on instruments and cameras. I've used Gretsch drums and guitar and an old cine camera to hold the text.

FIVE. The final step was some flatterened colour correction and to overlay the type, I used a new font I’ve found called Coolvetiva, crap name, but lovely font.

I brought contrast up in Photoshop to bolster the hues and make it look more juicy. Finally I placed the logos, I love putting little logos on posters, I always think they give work some authority.

The festival is currently in negotiations, so it's all underwraps at the moment. When the final work is signed off it will be on my Flickr Site.

Thursday, September 20

Region 4 – A Gift From My Hire Car

Maps are out on tour again that means there's a new Region CD, this one includes a Kyte remix.

I've carried on the theme of the Region expanding with each release, so we're onto Saturn now. I found some really fierce images of the planet and played about with the vector shape over the top of them.

I realised that I get inflluenced by the smallest things around me, at the moment I've got a hire car and the digital display I look at every day is a red LCD readout that burns really brightly, I noticed last night when I'd finished this cover that they look really similar.

Monday, July 30

How lame is that?

I hate it when designers hide their partners in their work like they're making some huge romantic gesture and preserving their image in time forever. Well, I used to hate it, then I did it.

iTunes pay a lot of money to feature in the Argos Catalogue, and the print run is well over a million copies, so potentially getting your face in there goes a long way to making you the most famous person in the world (sort of). So you can see this was a romantic opportunity to preserve Karen's image forever (it turns out I am lame). Still it's funny, and when we cracked it open at Argos, Luton and started showing complete strangers there's no way they thought we were poorly in our brains.

There she is on the iPod under the heading 'Photos', next to Johnny Depp. Click the photo to see an enlarged version.

Tuesday, July 24

To The Sky Single Cover

The next single from the Mercury Music Prize Nominated Maps Album is the biggest pop song on it, and the feeling within Mute is that it's going to be a big summer hit, so I really wanted to deliver on the cover

I wanted to get right inside the cubes for this one, and give a feeling that they were falling to earth and through them you can see the sky and the sun. It's impossible to match James' genius on this track, but to get inside the song and try and reflect some of the euphoria was where I tried to hang my hat.

My main inspirations have come from the first Slowdive EP, and the first My Bloody Valentine album Loveless.

Paul Taylor at Mute suggested that we roll out a different version of the cover on each format, I can't remember seeing that done before.

This is his second direct hit after he suggested we spot UV the logo on the back of the Gatefold Album. This is why I like working with Mute.

Tuesday, July 17

Mercury Music Prize Nominated...

So there is it, Maps are Shortlisted as one of the 12 artists nominated for the Mercury Music Award. This is great news for James and for everyone else involved with maps, including me.

This kind of attention for the album is going to push it deeper into the public consciousness, and that means more people are going to hold my artwork. I'm swelling up with pride, he really deserves it maybe I do too.

Here are the Nominess and the odds;

Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare - 4:1
Amy Winehouse - Back to Black - 4:1
The View - Hats Off to the Buskers - 8:1
Dizzee Rascal - Maths + English - 8:1
Klaxons - Myths of the Near Future - 8:1
Jamie T - Panic Prevention - 8:1
Bat for Lashes - Fur and Gold - 10:1
The Young Knives - Voices of Animals and Men - 10:1
Fionn Regan - The End of History - 10:1
Maps - We Can Create - 12:1
New Young Pony Club - Fantastic Playroom - 12:1
Basquiat Strings - Basquiat Strings with Seb Rochford - 12:1

Monday, July 9

On the Wall

It's quite rare that someone takes might piece of your artwork and gets a canvass made out of it, but it's a really nice feeling when it happens.

My work now proudly hangs in on someone's wall in Germany, thanks Ralph, now get a nail in the wall and get it up there, I'm coming round, (I'm not really).

Friday, June 15

'We used to hate each other'

There's a really nice piece in the Independent today about Maps, in it James claims that we used to hate each other and now we're mates, which is kind of true I guess, more surprising though was the fact that my old band used to sound like DEVO. There's a nice mention of the artwork though. You can read the full article HERE

Thursday, May 24

Sparks in the Snow

This is the next MAPS single on Mute, 'You Don't Know Her Name and, actually not Sparks in the Snow (another Maps song), I just called it that because my spark for the artwork came on a beautiful snowy day back in January. Snowed-in and inspired by my muse/sweetheart Karen Anthony Cuthbert Wilson-Brown I finally found a way to create what I was looking for.

I needed to build something from the strand of the ALBUM RENDERS, but it needed to have it’s own defining look to differentiate from all the other releases.

I’m really happy with it, I was adamant that the covers should be black and white but Paul A. Taylor at Mute help to convince me I was wrong, I have a lot of love invested in this project and Mute love it, but more importantly Maps love it.

You Don’t Know Her Name will be released on June 07 and you can see a full sized version of the artwork HERE

Friday, May 18

Killing Flies

Last week Kooky Records asked to create some T-Shirts for them to celebrate their 10th birthday. They came to me with this email;

'Hi Ben

We had an of idea for t-shirts if you were still up for it: Our first ever review called the label "the sound of killing flies with a black and decker sander - NME" so perhaps a big sander squishing flies with the quote around it might be cool. Perhaps with the Kooky logo on the sander??

Cheers Alex'

It's nice when you work with people that have such great ideas, as soon as I read that I saw the design in my head. Click HERE to see an enlargement of the shirt.

STOP PRESS 24/05/07: I've just negotiated my Kooky Records contract with Phil at Kooky. As I currently do all their work for free, when Kooky make their first million pounds they're buying me a Roller.

Monday, May 14

Running on Empty

Sometimes when new scripts get developed for the BBC they want to present a logo to support them that help to sell the premise behind the show, and assist in the targeting of the proposal. I'm lucky enough to have contacts there that allow me to get involved in these projects, and this the logo for a proposed BBC 1 show called 'Empties'.

Friday, May 11

We Have Created

When you've looked at a piece of work on the screen for as long as we did for the Maps album WE CAN CREATE you get to a point where you never want to see it again. Then it goes off to print and you forget about it for a couple of weeks, until one day (when Mute remembers to send you a copy) there it is, sitting in your postbox.

There's nothing quite so terrifying as the first look at the finished piece. You're oddly desperate to find something wrong with it, and if you don’t, you find yourself falling in love with it all over again. Luckily for us, we're in love today. Sadly, this feeling only lasts about an hour. There are easier ways to experience such highs. Drinking meths, for example.

Tuesday, May 8

A New Region

The Region series go out on tour with Maps to give away as free CDs. The idea behind the series it to take a simple image of the planets and moons as you move away from Earth, so I started with the Moon and the most recent one was based around Jupiter. You can see the full artwork here HERE also to get an idea of the series see REGION ONE and REGION TWO

Tuesday, May 1

The Crusade Begins...

Maps are launching their debut album at The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Northampton and I've been asked to design the invite. I wanted to do something that looked like the church had designed and printed themselves (no offence), and that carried the theme of the Crusades that the church is famous for.

It should be a good night, it's pretty limited to about 200 people and it is invite only. If you manage to get your hands on a copy of the invite have a look at the journey of maps on the inside, or you can see the full artwork HERE

Wednesday, April 25

Maps artwork finished

It seems a long time ago I explained to Mute Records how I wanted to create the Maps album artwork purely and mathamatically from the music. Actually, it was a long time ago that’s why, and this week finally sees the record’s release.

The idea was we wanted to make the artwork for the album create itself, so if one day we fired it into space and it landed on the moon then someone could pick it up, decipher it and remake the album. Simple really. The first thing we needed to do was to find away to take data from the music and turn that into something that looked organic, interesting and beautiful.

After about 2 weeks we found a programme called Walrus that allowed us to do exactly that. So, we stripped data from the album fed it into Walrus and converted it into huge decision tree diagrams.

Once we had created the Walrus model we then rebuilt it in 3DStudio Max on a hired Supercomputer, then we rendered and lit the huge structure that was around 5 million faces. This part of the project took about 3 months as each tiny tweak of the camera meant the computer re-rendering everything.

When we have great looking shots of each song's structure we took those renders into Photoshop for some final work on the lighting and atmosphere.

8 months later it was done and Maps release 'We Can Create' on Mute Records, May 14th. The limited Gatefold is out a couple of weeks after, and you should try and get your hands on one, as long as you promise to wear gloves.

See all of the artwork HERE