My hypertalented friend Lawrence Azerrad, who is designing the Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition and has created packaging for Wilco, Esperanza Spalding, Silversun Pickups, and many other artists (images below), is leading a new effort to explore and cultivate the historical link between design and music. It a fantastic new initiative within the AIGA, the professional associate for design, that will begin with a rich Web site, workshops, and educational programs. Beautiful album artwork and package design isn't the past of the music-listening experience. Rather it's essential to its future. From AIGA:
Azerrad says designers need to help engender transitional thinking: design can help the music industry, and the music industry can help designers. But for him, the crux of the matter seems to be in helping people engage with music in a way that can—without exaggeration—change lives. Something tactile may have been lost, but music today still moves us and frames the world and our cultural experiences. “The way we’re engaging with music now is very passive,” he says. “Streaming allows you to listen to any song any time, but we may be listening to it more as background music. The deeper, more life-marking changes happen in a more narrow spectrum. You still have hardcore fans, your Taylor Swift freaks or whatever, but music is now what you listen to while you’re driving or working out.
“Music has always been a key way to mark critical moments, like when you fall in love or lose a loved one. It has the ability to raise the spirit and the soul, that’s why music is a key part of religion and storytelling or ethnic heritage, wherever you’re from. It’s a critical part of defining the human experience, but it’s important we address this now because we’re seeing this atrophy of this part of our culture visually and culturally. If you think about the impact of Bowie and Aladdin Sane, it shaped ideas around queer identity: it mattered to people’s lives. When music is a more passive background experience, people are missing out. There’s less impact and a loss of that emotional resonance.”