Sunday, October 18, 2009


Above is Barry Gordy's famous house of hits in the city of Detroit, Michigan. And as most know today, this is where Mr. Gordy, Smokey Robinson, the Funk Brothers and many other stars to be worked and recorded what Gordy dubbed "theSound of Young America." In acknowledgment, respect and love of the "Motown sound" and the company's 50th year anniversary, look for more posts covering their album cover designs, photography and the logotype design of the that now recognizable Motown M. For now, peep the charming ("it had to be done because it had to be done because the idea just presents itself as an obvious graphic design and packaging design solution) and classics filled Motown: The Complete No. 1's.

Packaging design: Cool. Art direction: Hugh Brown, Michele Horie. However, as a lover of design and music, it would have been great to have constructed something that was built like an actual replica of the Hitsville U.S.A. house, similar to a doll house, with opening windows and door (ala The Doors recent deluxe box set design). But I'm sure the budget for something of that sort just was not in the cards. But I'm just sayin'- would of been that much cooler- next level details. You know? We designers are dreamers baby... and we're always dreaming big!

More on Motown to come.



"Know we need it, soul power
We got to have it, soul power
Know we want it, soul power
Got to have it, soul power
Give it to me, soul power
We need it, soul power, we need it, soul power
We got to have it, soul power..."

"You need some soul, come on get some"

And no credit is needed for the above song lyrics... if you're reading this post, you should already know. And if ya' don't know ya' better ask somebody! Click the link above for more in this live concert film released earlier this year.


As you know by now, the new JAY-Z album is out: 'The Blueprint 3'. I go back a bit with the work of "Hov" being that I once worked in the creative department of Def Jam as a designer. There, we developed design work for his album projects starting with Jigga’s second album release, ‘In My Lifetime, Vol. 1’. So it’s been incredible, having been somewhat intinately involved with the design and marketing of JAY-Z, to see his evolution. In terms of his album design- it’s never been highly conceptual in terms of visual approach with his albums. But for for The Blueprint 3 they’ve gone in an unuals direction by utlizing the artwork and still life photography of artist & photographer Dan Tobin Smith.

Although I love Smith’s work, I actually find it an odd choice for the cover of JAY-Z’s album. It’s not a bad choice of cover or a wrong choice- just an odd choice (in my humble opinion). And I guess I feel that way based on the fact that I can’t draw a connection with the title, The Blueprint 3 with Smith’s cover depicting a white room filled with a pile of various all white musical instruments. The connecting through line between album title and cover concept is lost on me. But that said, simply as an image or installation peice, I love it. And I’d love even more to actually see the peice in an art gallery up close versus on a tiny CD cover square. I’m quite certain the images impact is lessoned to a great degree due to the ahrinking down of the art to accomodate the CD package. I’m sure that in a gallery smith’s work would be, and is, a very poweful experience when viewed up close and personal.

You can sweat the technique of Smith and his work at his web site:

ABOUT StereoTyped

StereoTyped is about music & the history of music’s visual communications. Its inspiration came from writing & designing our forthcoming book StereoTyped: Hip-Hop’s Unsung Graphic Design Heroes, Heroines & the Oral & Visual Histories of the Rap Record (1979-1989). The book explores the oral histories of Rap’s graphic design communications & told by a select group of designers, art directors & illustrators who designed the work. But visually communicating the Funk is far too broad a subject to be restricted to (our beloved) Rap alone. Blogging is perfect for expanding the topic to Funk, Jazz, Soul, R&B, Blues, Go-Go, Rap, Hip-Hop, Dance, & Rock N Roll.

Rock, Rock on!


Darius Wilmore
(Author, Designer)
StereoTyped: Hip-Hop's Unsung Graphics Design Heroes, Heroines
& the Oral & Visual Histories of the Rap Records (1979-1989),

& The StereoTyped Blog