We need a replay (君は僕のeverything)

OK, so it’s a Japanese release. But, y’know. It’s SHINee.

SHINEee – The First (2011)

What’s so great about this?

Style change. It’s a j-pop release, but it still has some of that SHINee scribbley-sketchy-doodle and ripped paper styling that turns up in a lot of their CDs. That said, the style seems a lot cleaner than their earlier k-pop albums. It’s becoming less personal and more commercial. It’s still big on odd fonts and random motifs (in this case it involves a rabbit and a slightly creepy clown) but it’s more vector based than hand drawn, although the vectors aren’t all clean cut computerised lines. It’s very boyband-y, but what did I expect from a k-popsicles-gone-to-Japan boyband? It’s still more interesting than a 40 page photobook purely of their faces (though some fans may disagree there).

Other than that it’s very… plaid. The photoshoot theme is another of those “give those kids some random props and see what they do with them”. Don’t get me wrong, I do quite like this album as an object, but it’s not as successful as some of their others in a similar style (like Romeo) or as nicely done as their second Japanese album Boys Meet U (that CD+DVD randomness with it’s prints, patterns and vectors will be mine one day, oh yes).

Do my eyes deceive me, or is that Helvetica for the lyrics? J-pop loves Helvetica, and not just for functional text. I’ll have to do a post on it one day.

Want to see more?

The album comes in a medium format book (almost A5) with the disc held in with a plastic CD clip (down with the tyranny of the foam circle tab!)

Anything to declare?

To-to-to-todoke to-to-to-to your heart.

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This place is a paradise

Infinite – Paradise (2011)

What’s so great about this?

Wait, what is this thing? It’s a cardboard box with a sticker and you open it to find a massive photo book which houses a CD. It’s a bit like k-pop packaging pass-the-parcel. It sticks with cardboard-brown, deep pink and gold hues giving it a classy but back-to-basics fashion shoot feel. Compared to some of the other k-pop albums I’ve bought, this one has quite a quiet design and is pretty basic. That is not a bad thing. I think my favourite thing about Infinite CD packaging is how it’s keeps simple and cohesive but with some detail that makes it stand out, like the foil logos on the EPs or the unusual size cardboard case here. I can think of a few unusual k-pop albums made of different materials, usually vac-form plastic, but the plain old cardboard is something different.
As I’ve mentioned before, I also have a thing about the infinity logo that always changes. Most k-pop grounds don’t really do consistent branding, but the symbol allows for endless re-imagining while still being representative.

Want to see more?

Cardboard. Photobook. CD. Buy it new and it comes with a photocard (I’m not bitter that mine, secondhand, did not. Not bitter at all.)

Any more info?

Infinite are a 7 piece boyband whose sound has occasionally veered into 80s inspired territory (Exhibit A: Mini-Infinite’s single “She’s Back”). Their producer is often Sweetune, who’s done a great job of giving them a sound style. They’ve had a lot of EPs, 2 albums, a few sub-units, and goodness knows how many versions of the infinity symbol.

Infinite homepage (Kr)

Lets bring it back to 140 (+K-pop collectability)

Ayo GG! It’s inspiration time again.

Girls’ Generation – I Got A Boy (2013)

What’s so great about this?

It’s such a… a thing. A nice object, something you can keep coming back to and noticing more details of. The graffitti style motifs (one specific to each of the girls), the extra little flowery twists on the woodblock style type, Jessica Jung looking like a doll (omo, how are these girls even slightly real?), the insane mish-mash of styles and colours (and also the abuse of the font Lobster in all caps. All those flourishes together… No thanks). I do like the packaging overall even if some of the details are a little odd or grating (type in caps probably only bothers designers). The sheer brightness of it is k-pop in a nutshell. Try doing this anywhere else and it’d look like an identity crisis (well, it still does but sometimes k-pop works on the concept that a load of different concepts piled together are in fact one concept). My favourite part is the area on the back/inner front cover where all the motifs are used to create a repeating pattern.

Then there’s the collectability. Great for the record label, possibly not so great for fans’ wallets. Unwilling to go for the usual album + individual photocards, we’ve instead been given individual album designs. The nine girls each had their own version, plus one group version. That’s 10 possible covers! Each has their own distinct photobook, colour scheme and motif.

There are some downsides though. 10 covers mean if you want a certain member’s version, you might be out of luck. Mine is the Jessica version. Personally I think it has the best colour scheme out of the 10, although I like the photoshoots of some of the others more. And I really dislike the boy illustration/motif that Jessica got for her cover sticker, but again it’s personal preference.

See what I mean? And I’m not even a cover collecter. Some fans will hunt high and low to collect the version of their bias (favourite member of the group).

The other downside to this packagaing is the CD holder. While the front booklet is protected by the plastic slipcover, the disc is only held n place by a little bit of foam. Mine arrived having fallen off in the post (undamaged, thankfully). Other unboxings show the same having happened to other people, and their discs were brand new and shrinkwrapped! This album isn’t really travel friendly. I’m sure they sit nicely on a shelf though.

Want to see more?

Scroll over the version you’d like to see to be linked to the full unboxing or check out the version from my photos below:

The main box is a large rectangle format (slightly bigger than A5) that has the photobook in a tray at the front held in by a transparent plastic sleeve. The disc is held in an indent in the foam backing of the box, with a transparent disc cover featuring the girl whose version you have.

Bonus stage! : K-pop and Collectability

K-pop likes collectibles. While in the Western market that sort of thing is limited to special editions with small runs that come in a fancy box or have a poster and some extra tracks, k-pop believes everyone should be able to join in the fun. Yes, there are the super-duper-special-deluxe editions of certain things (although that happens more often with J-pop and Japanese releases), the best way of doing this appears to be the humble photocard. You buy your album or EP, open it up and out falls a picture of one of the group members. Haven’t got your bias? Trade it online, or buy another copy and cross your fingers. I wouldn’t count myself as a bias-collecting sort of person, but even I’ve been oddly disappointed or pleased by the card I’ve gotten in a new album. It’s playing on that Pokemon card idea of “gotta catch ’em all”.

There are some more problems for collectors. There can be Version A and Version B cards for ever individual member plus group shots. Sometimes there are limited runs of individual member cards, and everyone else gets the dreaded group card. Also there is the horror that is the “repackage” or re-release with new artwork and a bonus track or two, which never comes with a card. Buying second hand? The card will most likely be missing.

What’s a collector to do?

Tasty

For varying reasons, food seems to have been a topic for me. I like food. I like trying out different combinations of things, like five spice in stir fries (it’s like a spring roll, only not in a roll), grilled grated carrot and cheese toast, avocado and honey on toast… In fact, a fair few of them involve toast. But my favourite has to be apple, cinnamon and peanut butter on toast. Crunchy, gooey and toasty? Yum. So naturally, this being my blog and not a foody one, I made an After Effects animation dedicated to the best fruit-nut-spice-bread combination ever.

I was going for something a bit infographics-y and stylised, and that advertising staple of ukelele, clapping and jingle bells seemed perfect for the soundtrack (Music by Sweet Wave Audio sweetwaveaudio.co.uk). It’s not a recipe (not unless you count those “1: roll out shop bought pastry 2: fill with can of pie filling 3: cook” things that turn up in magazines recipes as well), it’s just for fun. And to spread the word that apple and peanut butter go really well together.

Cumin is the spice of life : escottdesign.wordpress.com

Again with being food-related, cumin is good in/on many things. Soup. Roast potato/sweet potato/parsnip/carrot. Stew. Couscous. I was trying to get the background on this to look a bit tangine-like (the decorated serving dish with a cone-shaped lid). Perhaps a Victorian inspired tangine? Hmm…

Be seeing you.

Pick Me Up 2014 Part 2 : Collectives & Agencies

As I said in my last post about Pick Me Up at Somerset House, there are a lot of illustrators with work on show, and many are displaying with agencies or collectives. I couldn’t always see the names of the individual artist, which was quite sad as there were some absolutely beautiful pieces that I’d love to see other work by the same people. Sadly, as some of the work is exclusively for Pick Me Up, I may never see it or find the illustrator again. It’ll take a bit of researching on my part to hunt them down as best I can. However, until I do, here are some highlights of the agency/collective areas. I’ll do my best to update with the names of the illustrators I find!

Works from:

My absolute favourite pieces were the zodiac fashion illustration prints in the Handsome Frank room who I think are by Malika Favre. Beautiful.

Pick Me Up 2014 Part 1 : Individuals

Over the Bank Holiday weekend, I had quite a lot of art viewing. I saw a few of the open houses down in Brighton, then on Monday went into town to see Pick Me Up to Somerset House. For those who don’t know, PMU is the big contemporary design/illustration show for the year. If you like screen prints and fine liner drawings, you would love it. The only downside is that in the big rooms shared by collectives, I couldn’t always see who had done an individual piece of work (the problem with low lighting, crowding and writing in pencil on the wall really tiny).

In my first blogging of this year’s Pick Me Up, here are some highlights of individual artists from the Pick Me Up Selects area.

Thibaud Herem
Thibaud Herem
An illustrator who focuses on extremely detailed architectural subjects. At the show there was the most amazing one of Liberty’s (sadly no photo) and the London skyline.

Lynnie Zulu
Lynnie Zulu
Her combination of bright colours and bold, African-inspired patterns was really eye catching.

Andrew Groves
Andrew Groves
Minimal illustrations with bright colours, his set for PMU was inspired by wooden objects. They style looked like what happens when Japan meets Scandinavia.

Jessica Das
Jessica Das
Very simple illustrations, mainly featuring cats (her theme was “Cat Island”). The styles of the prints varied, but all were bright and striking with their contrast.

Jack Hudson
Jack Hudson
This illustrator’s work centers around scale, imagining small people alongside oversize everyday objects. I loved the playful take on the Cowboys & Indians battle being played out around potted cacti!

Gee Gee GG

Over Easter, my computer had a bit of a breakdown. You don’t realise quite how much data you have until you’re worrying that it might all be gone. Luckily, I haven’t lost a great deal (some dummy WordPress posts from my virtual server, a few old saved games that I probably won’t ever want again). It’s definitely time to give my brand new hard drive’s contents a spring clean!

Going through some of my old image folders I came across these. I think that was my reaction to hearing Girls’ Generations “The Boys” for the first time (it isn’t strongest single imho), and then Gee (which, on the popularity-on-YouTube scale at least, probably is).

Girls' Generations : The Boys escottdesign.wordpress.com

Girls' Generations : Gee escottdesign.wordpress.com

(I will stop posting k-pop related things one day, honest.)

Regular work projects, WordPress dev-ing and the Hipster Science graphics aside, I’m in the middle of finishing off something a bit newer which involves toast…