It’s been a little while since I had an entry into the long-running Design Inspiration series, but these things take a little more time to ferment. The latest comes from a longtime haunt of RSTB, Dylan Marcus McConnell, also known in design circles as Tiny Little Hammers. Dylan’s tape label Field Hymns and his work with Digitalis originally brought him to my attention, though these days you’re just as likely to find his work on releases from Astral Spirits, Osees, Thrill jockey, or Idee Fixe. While Field Hymns might be on hiatus at the moment he’s helped rebrand a renewed Foxy Digitalis for all us heads who were missing the deep dive delights of Brad’s musings for the last few years. McConnell’s works have graced vintage synth prints and posters from Weyes Blood to Mudhoney. Now Dylan’s taken the time to scrape through some of his own inspirations, picking out five all timer’s from his own collection that have helped shaped his work and fed the muse over the years. Keep an eye out for Dylan’s new works at Instagram or his site.
Anthony Williams – Spring (1966)
I can’t say why I am always so drawn to this cover, this gorgeous block of orange and cream, a palate that although can be the colors of height of bloom, to me always presages fall. Maybe I also like this dissonance in contrast with the title. You just can’t beat Blue Note design from this era: it’s just incredible, all of it. But this cover is always tops for me and as these first-pressings age, every one I’ve seen has a slightly different gradient, each essentially a different swatch depending on its life experience, a further delightful twist in its overall presentation. It’s like a scratch n’ sniff sticker for the eyes with a thousand different smells for a single image. I do not know if it’s Reid Miles, but it feels like it.
Fripp & Eno – Evening Star (1975) / Robert Schröder- Harmonic Ascendant (1979)
I absolutely love minimal landscape prints with lots of sky/horizon and the poetry of both these images hits me every time. I feel like I’ve been just remaking these two covers for most of my career. I used to collect fabric prints from the late 70’s / early 80’s, the type you’d see in chiropractors offices & and new age shops, expressly because this look was running rampant around then and no one wants them these days, making them easy to find in thrift stores. Japanese landscape painting meets the American West. I can never get enough of this look.
Haruomi Hosono – 花に水 (Watering A Flower) (1984)
I adore Ikko Tanaka and Haruomi Hosono equally: this is not the original cover but it’s the best cover. Discovering Tanaka’s work was like suddenly seeing a new hue on the color spectrum and he’s a constant yet perplexing influence. What an eye that fellow had. I have no idea what is happening in that image and I don’t care. If I ever get a tattoo, that is a prime candidate.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – F♯ A♯ ∞ (1997)
When I picked this LP up as a young lad, I was totally blown away by the entire conceptual package: the letter-pressed card-stock, the blurry photos, the inscrutable manifestos and manic scribbles (and the flattened penny!) completely mirroring the incredible and devastating music inside, both describing an observers interstitial space on the margins of a society that was corrupt, rotting and oblivious of these threats from within, and this terror and confusion of the coming breakdown without. All this was treated as artifact, a collection of the ranting of seers, ignored for all their street wisdom and gutter punk resilience. All these Godspeed and later AZMZ releases are just beautiful in their presentation. Brilliant.
Bill Evans & Jim Hall – Undercurrent (1962)
Someday I hope I can make an image as immediate and striking, yet so innately imbued with poetry and metaphor as this Toni Frissell photo: a modern Millais, but from below. That is the ultimate goal of any design career, and is probably not in the works, but a boy can try, no?