Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Design That Didn't Make It Home

(above) The original cover and title treatment I created.

(above) The revised cover I saw, for the first time, online.

(click image to enlarge)

Whilst digging in the archives putting the portfolio site together late last year, I came upon some files from the spring of 2006 that reminded me of what can go wrong for a designer.

I art directed illustrator Travis Smith and designed the package for a band on High Impact Recordings, an imprint of Metal Blade Records. The band was named A Love Ends Suicide and I worked with the band directly on creating their package. Everything was approved, I delivered the files to Metal Blade, and invoiced them accordingly. Done deal.

Weeks later I saw a press release on a music website about the album coming out and followed the link to see if they posted the album art as well. What I found was extremely disturbing: the original layout for the cover was completely different. I immediately emailed the label president who hired me in the first place to ask "was there a problem?", "was it all changed?", and to let him know that I was upset about not being contacted to make any revisions and nor was I aware of any revision requests from the band. I was even more upset because what tainted the new version of the cover was "basic, sophomoric, Photoshop, small-time stuff" and that "I hope my name isn't attached to all of that." I would never have assumed it was my contact's fault but I simply needed to find out more.

He wrote me back saying that "the band decided that they wanted to use a different logo that they would be using for this record cycle. I assumed they had spoken to you about possibly using a different logo. Nothing else on the record is changed other than the lyrics which were added to the tray card." He kindly added: "It was not my intention in anyway to upset you or be sneaky. I wanted to go with a logo that the band was happy with and I assumed everything was communicated. Knowing the situation know I would have handled things differently." He then mentioned that the band were "copied on this email so we can all communicate about this" and then apologized once more.

I replied to all, thanked him for the note, and told him it was greatly appreciated. After all, it wasn't his fault – it was the band's. He was just left to clean it up for them. I added that "I just needed to air my concern to those involved with the project. The bottom line is that what my name is attached to I want to actually be my own work... and I think that makes sense." To which he replied to all saying that "I absolutely understand."

The band got the emails, of course, but never had the decency to reply or apologize. I wasn't surprised, to be honest. In the end, although the album didn't do well and the band broke up, perhaps they'll be in another band one day, send their album off to the record label only to have the label remix it without their knowledge. Maybe then they'll know what it's like.