Record design guru Peter Saville recently suggested in an editorial for Q magazine that sleeve design has come out of the doldrums. How healthy do you think this field is and what are the most serious obstacles facing its designers?

‘With sleeve design you deal with a captive audience that are visually informed and essentially that defines a healthy working climate where you’re allowed creative freedom. Most of the time it can be an enjoyable experience with fruitful results, but as is the case of working in any area defining a design process that is on your terms, it can be a struggle. I think sometimes people working outside this field are under the illusion that sleeve design is an easy ride. It’s not always carte blanche, and we still often spend a long time convincing people [both artists and labels] to be brave and run with an idea – or to challenge the conventional.’

Tom Hingston, founder, Tom hingston studio

‘If you study sleeve design over the years you will find there has always been some good sleeves and there has always been a lot of rubbish. To say there was a doldrum period I find bewildering. People become too obsessed with the current state of the genre, attempting to pigeonhole its various styles. Designers today no longer specialise exclusively in sleeves, a broad range of disciplines is a much healthier approach. Obstacles arise from record companies’ nervousness and lack of creativity.’

Brian Cannon, Creative Director, Microdot

‘Clients are more aware of the benefits of bringing in a designer at stage one. It is a rarity for us, today, to be handed a stack of photos and asked to perform alchemy on an artist. Putting across the right message is what’s important and sleeve designers are taken more seriously in this respect.’

Stuart Crouch, Studio Manager, Peacock design

‘Despite the inevitable pressure within the music industry to follow proven “formula” design and marketing campaign models, we are still seeing some refreshing work in the CD racks these days. We have just spent several weeks reviewing our archives while designing our book Delicious (to be published in May) and on reflection our best work is invariably done for clients that are aware of the value of originality and allow us the freedom to be innovative.’

Michael Harris, Manager, Stylorouge

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