winners: design contest 8: arya bakhsheshi & andy chen (tie)

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In general I like the ones that are more hazy and indistinct, and offer less information — ones that don’t try to force a particular viewpoint on the viewer. Too much visual information gets in the way of imaginary soundtracks for imaginary films. -Geeta Dayal

After much deliberation, and in order to honor a complex competition which generated a particularly diverse set of images, as well as to respect the divergent perspectives of the jury, two winning covers have been selected: those of Arya Bakhsheshi of Iran and Andy Chen of the United States.

Arya Bakhsheshi (front)

Arya Bakhsheshi (back)

On Arya Bakhsheshi’s cover:

This is a beautifully considered piece of design, again both the front and back. It stays very close to established Eno-esque imagery — it’s impossible not to think of Eno’s Mistaken Memories of Medieval Manhattan skylines and the Obscure Records covers — and it has a photographic quality that seems to locate it in the period (1970s-1980s) when Eno was moving more deeply into non-vocal, ambient music. The “obviousness” of the imagery could count against this cover, and yet the delicate judgement of mood, the photos’ sombre melody and soft twilight melancholy, the jewel-like dying sun, the transmutation of the ordinary into something magical and poetic, are so close to my experience of listening to Eno that I can’t resist it. If this were to be the album’s new official cover it would give me pleasure every time I got it out to play it — far more than the existing cover — and I know I would never tire of it.  I feel the designer has lived with Eno’s music and deeply appreciates what it is about. In two variations of the same scene, the designer suggests the temporal lapse of film with the subtlest, most contemplative of gestures. The typography occupies the spaces in the images with the same intelligence and sensitivity of touch. If only Eno’s later album covers had been this good. -Rick Poynor

Whilst I find this image to be slightly derivative, reminding me somewhat of Eno’s “Mistaken Memories of Medieval Manhattan” video work, I do like its overall quietness, which is only broken by one flaring luminescent light. The typography and overall design of both front and back covers is very tight, thoughtful and works perfectly. -Russell Mills

Andy Chen (front)

Andy Chen (back)

On Andy Chen’s cover:

I like the mysteriousness of this purely abstract black and white submission. I feel it also echoes Eno’s strengths, being that he operates best, innovating approaches to sound, when working at the edges of the mainstream, constantly experimenting. (The mainstream generally catch on and appropriate his ideas and techniques about three years after the event.) -Russell Mills

I do think it’s a fine piece of work — both the front and back cover. It’s the kind of highly finessed design that would emerge as a favourite and perhaps winner in a more general design contest, if designers alone were the judges. That’s partly why I resisted it  — because from a design-world perspective it seemed too much the obvious choice in its refinement and tastefulness. Over the years I have become a bit tired of the predictability of the results when judging design competitions. Also, for me, although I appreciate the cover as an abstract image and as a piece of typography, it doesn’t strongly evoke my experience of the album’s music. -Rick Poynor

There were many strong entries. You can see some of them below, or see all of the submissions here.

Alice Twemlow singled out Anibal Perez’ cover as a particular favorite noting:

I like its visual references to piano keys, circuit boards, plugs, fret boards,  speakers and an LP itself, and also to the endlessly circular nature of Eno’s music which a number of the cover artists pick up on. But I especially appreciate its allusion to the darker, more mechanical sounding aspects of this album (felt most strongly in Patrolling Wire Borders) through the reference to Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon plan for a prison in which the staff of the institution are positioned at the center of a circular arrangement of cells and are able to view all  the inmates around them. Inmates would not know when they were being watched. Maybe its just me but there seem to be some associations between ambient music with mind control (all that knob twiddling and wires I suppose) and the physically arresting effects it has on the human body, so the imagery seems to fit. 

I like its restrained use of black and white and its avoidance of retro tropes, or too- obvious allusions to trippy journeys through outer space. You can use it as an op-art piece, staring into the central eye and letting the radial elements spin and pulsate, if you need to. 

Frith Kerr liked David Castillo’s cover for its most successful consideration of type and image.


Here are some other wonderful submissions. From top to bottom, Jamie Keenan, Charles Chamberlin, Duncan O Ceallaigh, Adam Green, Robert Jarrell, Randy Slavin, Brad Konick.

Russell Mills singled out Howard Gardener’s:

I like the subdued nature of the image, which I suspect is simply an inverted photograph i.e. in negative. The row of anonymous un-labelled cans, some opened with smoke or vapours pluming from within, suggests  mysterious contents of unknown potential, very like the music of Music for Films, each track conjuring up the atmosphere of previously unknown environments, physical landscapes or mental mindscapes. The framing of the image, its composition and the careful placement and treatment of the typography thoughtfully and appropriately mirrors the tone of the photograph.”

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