Part of being on the board for NARAS (National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences) is that everyone serves on additional committees. I’m the Chair for the Educational committee and also serving on the Craft committee, which judges entries for package design.
In the Craft committee, we meet every couple of weeks and look through boxes of cds (and the occassional vinyl) sent from headquarters (national office) that have been submitted from qualifying candidates eligible to receive a Grammy for package design. This is a fun group. It’s my third time to serve on this branch, and I would do it every year if elected in each time.
Most of the cd entries are typical—face on cover, song content on back with another photo of the musician. The ones that really stand out are the cream that rises to the top, and we can pretty much spot them the minute the entries are all layed out on this giant design table we use for our judging space. It’s exciting when we start mulling over the interior of booklets, or find a surprise design element underneath the physical cd itself. Talking with other designers (there are five of us), I enjoy listening to what they would have done to strengthen a recordings overall look.
However, my favorite part of this process is the special packages—boxed sets or limited releases. Although I can’t disclose to you who I have voted for this year, I’d like to share that ZZ Top had a very funny element in their design and that the Talking Heads collection was GORGEOUS. Absolutely stellar. Also, I would like to, once again, applaud the entire country of Japan for making the most unbelievable designs and always staying on top of genius.
But do let me describe the ZZ Top set: the box looks like a miniature tin roofed Texas B-B-Q joint. When you open the lid, they have cleverly devised a way that the five cds sit in a stair-step pattern, from low to high, so that you can pluck the cds from their black, faux velvet nestled interior. But when you look towards the top, behind the last cd itself, it looks like a fat booklet, ready to be removed and read. As I pulled it out, it revealed itself to be a two and a half inch length by one inch flip book! Two different flip “stories”—one version is the dudes twirling their guitars, stoic as all get out; you turn the book around, and the other side shows the three bearded gents lined up, so as you flip the pages, they slide their hands from left to right as if to say, “Come on in…check out what’s cooking!” Waaaaay hilarious.