The design process is not always a straightforward journey right across the finish line. The best ideas tend to come about after various scrapped attempts, false starts, and small failures. The most interesting process stories see a design transforming through all of that, only to turn out conceptually stronger.
In a series of pieces featuring designers in their own words, we’ve been resurfacing rejected designs to see how their stories may still have value. So far, we’ve spoken to Erik Brandt about his poster that was rejected by a competition jury, as well as Berlin-based illustrator Laura Breiling about the right to show a work on social media after it’s rejected, among several others. Here’s Mark Edwards (Eddy) of Manchester-based design studio DR.ME on a job for Warp Records that got usurped right at the very end.
“We got a brief in from Stephen Christian who is head of A&R at Warp Records toward the start of 2012. It was pretty informal, which I guess you would expect from an independent music label like Warp. He asked us to do the album artwork for British dub record producer Adrian Sherwood’s Survival & Resistance—Adrian’s friend was supposed to be doing the commission but had gone AWOL. Stephen basically just sent us an outline of what they were looking for, along with some screenshots of reference images, as well as some of our own work that he had seen featured in a write up in Creative Review and liked the look of. Then, of course, he also sent the record for us to listen to.
“As big fans of Warp and a number of the acts it’s released over the years, we were really flattered to be approached. DR.ME was still an incredibly young design studio at the time.
“To start the commission, we experimented with a few different directions that we thought would suit the title—Survival & Resistance: this meant trying to create something using two elements, symbolizing the combination of the two words. We sent Warp and Adrian some ideas: they liked the concentric geometric shapes we were using, but weren’t sure the imagery was quite right. They suggested something a bit more punk. So in response, we found some images that we felt had more of that energy and urgency that punk possesses—but not in a safety-pin-through-the-nose kind of way.
“Once we submitted the final image, we didn’t hear anything for a week or so, which, given the fact that we were on quite a tight deadline, meant we were prepared for the bad news when it came. We were pretty gutted. We had worked up a piece that the label and Adrian were happy with, only for his friend to appear with finished artwork at the eleventh hour.
“Stephen let us down gently, and sent us a care package of Warp albums, which was good of him and probably says a lot about the label. In the end, the experience was mainly positive, as we were still early on in our design careers. It felt like an affirmation that we weren’t just kidding ourselves and that we were making good work that people outside of Manchester, UK, were sitting up and taking notice of.
“I feel like I bragged about the whole thing to friends too much in retrospect, though, so I guess it taught us not to talk up potential projects until they are signed off.”