So I dug out SSNE1 again and all of a sudden noticed a lot of details and subtle references that I had missed at my first and cursory look (I know, shame on me). As I realized the amount of consideration and work behind it, I thought it might be enlightening to get some first-hand information by the man in charge. So here's a little conversation with Andy of Plus2 Studio about the genesis and evolution of the Street Sounds Nu Electro 1 cover artwork.
C.R.: It was really interesting to see all the different concepts that didn't make it - I wouldn't have expected them to be so diverse. So I'd first like to talk about the way from the first drafts to the final version. How did you get involved in the project?
Andy: I first got in touch with Morgan when the press release announcing the release of the Nu Electro series was circulated. I am a massive fan of the music, and I’m slightly obsessive about the original packaging. It was the definitive piece of graphic design in the 80s that inspired me to become a designer. I rebuilt the original cover designs as a self initiated project some years ago. Many hours were spent researching, to find a perfect font match for the heavily elongated and condensed text. I eventually purchased it from a small font foundry in France.
C.R.: What guidelines did you get from Morgan for the first concepts? Did he want a specific look, or did he leave it up to you to surprise him?
Andy: He was pretty open to interpretation. For the first draft, I kept some of the original elements to make the link to the original releases: the background colour, the condensed electro typeface and the flat colour treatments. I liked the minimalist approach. The new elements I added were the use of a metallic gold and some quite contemporary looking numerals. Morgan had seen enough to indicate that I was the man for the job even though this initial design was not quite what he wanted. It was a bit too "warp" / "electronic" (see above for a picture of the first draft).
C.R. So what were your own guidelines when you worked on what became the final version? What were you trying to express and achieve?
Andy: I was trying to keep one foot in the past but also represent the futuristic sci-fi elements heavily linked with the music. I thought I really shouldn’t be trying reinvent the wheel here, so I went back to the original Electro 1.
My influences for creating the 3D number one were two things: The original number one from Electro 1 and an excellent website with loads of CGI spacecraft. There’s one in particular I drew inspiration from:
The body text typeface is from an excellent type typographer (http://www.neubauladen.com). This had just the the feel I was looking for. After a little bit of tinkering - there you have it. The spirit of the 80’s original and the sci-fi futurism of the now.
C.R.: That's interesting cause to me the 3D number and the typeface also have a slight retro feeling to them. The black background coupled with the sci-fi details give it a martial, muscular appearance that I alway tend to connect with early 90s American corporate design.The same probably goes for the typeface which looks like a 90s new school variant of the crude monospace pixel type seen on old computer screens. It seems that the current design paradigm is a return to reduced modernist aesthetics, so maybe the appeal to 3D phatness and computer symbolism can already be seen as old school in a way?
Andy: The number one was built using the exact outline of the "1" from the 80s original. It is I guess, retro/future. The type does echo the monospace type used on early VDUs but I think there is a definite futuristic feel to the type.
C.R.: "Retro-futurist" describes it perfectly, thanks for the hint! One final question: Are there any artists, designers, schools or traditions that have influenced your work?
Andy: Loads ... I was particularly influenced by Neville Brody in the late 90's and also the work of Thirst, who I did a work placement with, before I started my studio. They did the design and art direction of i-D magazine. It was all PMT cameras and paste up, the traditional old school and very skilled way. Swifty is another influence, loved his work for Talkin Loud in the 90s.
I also like the work of Wim Crouwel, and Swiss minimalist typography. I love grids and structure and the use of space — anything that is considered and that has real craft. In terms of Electro AS1 Projects is doing some real good quality stuff stateside, with Monotone etc.
Check out Andy's diverse portfolio at http://www.plustwo.co.uk.