NPR logo The Future Of Album Art

The Future Of Album Art

When was the last time you sat down and listened to your favorite record, held the artwork in your hands and did nothing else? For me, it's been ages. I find it so easy to have my attention pulled away by the Web, by email or even a magazine. The music may hold my interest, but the artwork rarely does.

I've come to the conclusion that it's the fault of the art and not my short attention span. I've never liked the CD format when it comes to artwork and liner notes. Sure, there are box sets that are knockouts, but the average CD booklet is hard to read and just plain too tiny.

Now comes the future of album covers: digital art.

For years, we've seen CDs with bonus videos and even electronic books. But nothing has knocked me out until recently, when I saw Snow Patrol's new interactive Booklet (a clunky but descriptive name) for its latest release, A Hundred Million Suns.

I downloaded the art for free as an application from the iPhone app store. I haven't even heard the music yet, though I could imagine listening on my iPod Touch, while opening a series of digital origami, complete with lyrics and liner notes.

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The first screen shows a universe of origami shapes, like stars. Touch one of the shapes and it comes forward.

origami

Pinch the origami to open or close it.

origami

When some of the paper shapes open, you'll find lyrics or other notes.

origami

There are also videos and Web links, but the key to my loving this has less to do with the execution and more to do with the form. I love the idea of sitting with my iPod and playing with the artwork while listening to music. Any artist or designer, frustrated by the CD format, will just delight in making art that moves, morphs and informs.

If you think of artwork the way a designer thinks of a video game, all of a sudden the paradigm shifts from bands getting their music on Guitar Hero to fans taking unforgettable journeys into a band's artistic vision, which includes its music, its words and its musings.

You think MTV was a marriage of music and art? Just wait.