Big Active, who are responsible for the visual image of hundreds of artists since it was founded in the early 90s, (notably Keane, Beck, Goldfrapp, Basement Jaxx) work on the philosophy that the best work is appropriate to the ‘spirit’ of the artist or band. Ideas and input to the final brief comes from ‘all sorts of people’ — from the band or artist themselves to their management and the record label. Each project, Gerard told us, is really different; some artists have a very clear idea of how they want themselves and their sound to be ‘packaged’, others prefer less involvement and take their lead from the creative thinking and image making of the designers, illustrators and photographers that form part of the Big Active network.
Gerard spoke about the changing landscape of music design. In a world where CDs and downloads are essentially delivering the same information, and, furthermore, consumers can ‘cherry-pick’ tracks without hearing the whole album, designers need to rethink the physical product in a way that gives it a reason to exist outside the digital content it carries (make it collectable! make it interactive!)
He is optimistic: ‘It’s just the medium of delivery that is changing. CDs, vinyl, digital formats can sit side by side, each making the most of its own particular strength. Music design is becoming a much broader discipline; that can only be a good thing for designers in the future.’
Questions from students went into extra time and students were invited to visit the Big Active studio in London.