Album sleeve art could change forever following the introduction of animated covers, designed in anticipation of MP3 players capable of displaying the new files coming to market.
London-based consultancy Zip Design has created an animated sleeve for McFly album Radio:Active, which launched in hard copy on Super Records on 21 September. The animated version, due to go live this week, will appear initially on social networking sites as a moving avatar.
Animated covers are based on the existing cover design. The image moves, but not in sync with the music or in video form. David Bowden, creative director at Zip, says, ‘We can make anything that works on a loop in gif-sequence animation.’He adds, ‘No one else is doing it. It’s something that we’re just starting to do.’
Zip had already completed animated sleeve projects for now-defunct EMI act Make Model and Heat band Cicada. The consultancy was commissioned to the Make Model project in November 2007 by former Make Model band manager and Island Records general manager Jon Turner, following a two-way competitive pitch.
Turner commissioned the job because he believes Apple will soon launch an iPod capable of displaying moving cover art. Zip, recognising the potential of animated sleeves, is combining its graphic and digital offer when approaching new clients, which led to the McFly contract.
Talking about the potential for animated sleeves, Turner says, ‘We’re waiting to see what can be done with the format – waiting for the right platform. We want to be able to sell the moving process as part of the product.’
Unlike Super Records, Turner will not commit Island animated sleeves to social networking sites until a device is launched, but he anticipates this to be ‘in the next 12 to 24 months’.
Mark Hattersley, editor of industry magazine Macworld, doesn’t expect a new iPod device to be released this year, but says, ‘I don’t think there’s anything stopping them. They certainly have the technical capability.’
Peter Saville, record sleeve designer for Factory Records, sees the transition into animated album art as an ‘obvious step’. He believes there is an expectation to work with moving images across the graphics industry today. ‘It’s redundant to only operate in static forms. Not many identities are static any more. Communications design is already an art of change,’ he says.
Radio:Active has seen Zip work across graphic and digital disciplines, setting a precedent for animated artwork. Saville says, ‘It’s a new possibility that will suit some [designers] and will be a problem for others.’
Zipping into animation
• Zip Design’s first animated sleeve was in November 2007 for Folk Song by EMI group Make Model, commissioned by band manager Jon Turner
• Then followed an animated cover for Same Old Scene by Cicada
• Zip offered the animated cover to McFly’s Super Records, after making the hard copy for Radio:Active
• An MP3 player that shows animated artwork is predicted to come to market next year