Mick's Graphic Design Resume.
Your recording is done. The mixes sound great, and they’ve been sent off to get mastered. Sure, you’re excited, but you’re exhausted from pouring your heart, soul, and sweat into this. You can finally relax, right?
(Cue DEVO’s “Itching Swelling Brain” here.)
I've seen recording artists unintentionally, and without any malice whatsoever, commit all kinds of missteps when it comes to artwork that will accompany the music they've worked so hard to get right: Producer names spelled wrong, important info/credits buried deep "inside the fold", official band URL's barely readable or completely missing, type laid out so small that it can't be read with reading glasses AND a magnifying glass, color that appeared great on-screen during the design process, but when printed it looked horrible, and probably the most ironic failure: Forgetting to credit a graphic designer.
- FORMATS: Always use design templates supplied by the pressing plant. They’re usually available in program-native templates and in generic PDF form. Photoshop is OK (at best) for text that will appear on your design, but the typesetting options are much better in a real graphic layout-for-print program such as Adobe’s InDesign. Make sure your images are either in RGB or CMYK formats, see what the pressing plant requires - some digital processes want RGB, but CMYK is the norm. Images for print MUST be at a 300 pixels per inch resolution; 72 pixels per inch is for display screens and will NOT print very well.
- READABILITY: Check Everything At Actual Size. It's easy to enlarge the display of your design on the computer screen so you can get in there and fine-tune the details. But make sure you're also viewing it at actual size. How do you know what actual size is? Easy: hold up a CD from your collection against the computer screen and size the program display magnification to match. Now, is there any type or element that is too small to read or decipher? Then it's got to be enlarged. Increase the font size until you can read it, or enlarge the graphic element so you can tell what the heck it is.
- DO A MOCKUP: Print your artwork out on whatever printer you have at your disposal, B&W or color. Get a scissors and cut it to size, stick glue it together and make a mockup of your artwork. This provides a simulated way to view your design, and could even generate ideas, enhancements, or re-design initiative. It’s also FUN.
- COLOR: Unless you have a color-calibrated monitor scheme in effect for your computer screen, screen display color is iffy at best. Do a REAL color check by getting your artwork printed out at your area Staples or equivalent. Ask them for output on the most color-accurate printer they have. Trust me, not only is this a more bona-fide way to check your color, it is also yet another way of checking every component of your design for anything that is out of order. Bring a PDF file to give them.
- PROOFREADING: Have everyone on the artist/production team proofread the artwork. Including, and especially the producer(s). This is THE number-one element that prevents printing mistakes from occurring. Then, get someone who has never seen the artwork, let alone been involved with the project… to proofread it as well. Maybe a relative that you can have over for dinner.
- SOURCE MATERIAL COPYRIGHT: Don’t use any picture or artwork that you do not have the rights to use, or that are not in the public domain. You don’t want to irritate other creative types (best case) or get sued for infringing someone’s copyright (worst case). If you are using a picture of a person, make sure that you have secured clearance / license to use that picture. You don’t want to have to recall all of your artwork just because you didn’t get permission to use a graphic or a person’s likeness.
- The producer must review and proofread all artwork before it goes to the pressing plant. It’s a producer’s job to ensure everything is right, and as the person who is overseeing the effort, they’re the go-to. If that person is me, I promise I will catch some typo's, spelling mistakes, missing elements, credits, or image problems. If I'm not producing your release, I always offer to proofread your art anyway. Trust me, it's worth it. Let's make sure everything is correct, and looking great.
- Production credit goes on the back cover so it is prominently readable. Yes, we are aware the Beatles didn’t do this on The White Album. You’re not the Beatles. This isn’t just our rule; it’s industry-accepted standard practice. Sometimes it’s a self-produced effort; then it’s your name.
- Recording Credit must go somewhere on the artwork. In our case, the form would most often be: "Engineered & mixed by Mick Hargreaves at the Lantern Sound Recording Rig". Of course if any work was done somewhere else and/or other people were involved, this credit should include that information as well.
- Include info who wrote the songs and their respective publishing affiliation (BMI / ASCAP/ SESAC). This information is important, because you want it to be logged at radio stations so that writers get performance royalties. Make sure that you include all copyright and trademark notices as well, because you don’t want your creation to fall into the public domain.
- Remember, recording credits are just as important as paying the people who did the recordings; include all appropriate credits for everyone who worked on the record. Wherever your music is being recorded, make sure you discuss it with the studio, the engineer, the producer, the musicians, and everyone else involved. If nobody asks for credits, or the issue isn’t even discussed, bring it up beforehand. If you don’t give everybody credit for the work they did, there really isn’t much they can do other than get pretty upset about it, and most likely they will.
However, many people will make sure to have proper crediting written into their recording agreement, production agreement, and the like. If they do, and you don’t give them proper credit, you will be hearing about it. It’s extremely important to these people; always give credit where credit is due. It doesn't cost you anything, it gets people more work, and they are proud of what they helped you create; they deserve the credit. They’re often featuring your news items, release news, song samples, links, and whatever else you can imagine over the usual social media streams; return the favor. Everyone wins.
HELP OUT THE MEDIA TYPES
- Put your band name on the back cover. Don't even make the people flip over the cover to find out who you are.
- Include all song titles large enough to read on the back cover, WITH TIMES FOR EACH SONG INCLUDED.
- Include your band URL on the back cover, large enough to read. People will want to look you up on the web so they can get background on you to talk about. Remember, a DJ does what they do, in no small part, because they LOVE music. Help them find out more about you, and even contact you. Perhaps an email address should be included.
- Include your Record Label info, large enough to read. That includes the record label logo. To minimize, or worse, omit, those elements is pretty much dealing a slap in the face to the label people who are getting behind, and releasing, your creation. While we're at it, include a catalog number, if applicable.
REMEMBER: ONLINE IS JUST AS IMPORTANT
And finally, as Larry Crane said in his Tape Op Magazine “Give Credit Where Credit is Due” piece: