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Design Filter: Electronic Ambient Album

12 November 2022

Plunged Into Clouds is a experimental electronic ambient album cover. You can see the final outcome and read about the project's background in my Portfolio.

This blog series, Design Filter, is to focus on my design process for a few projects. This includes showing process work like mind maps and thumbnails.

To start this project, I drew upon my experiences of listening to electronic music and the experimental ambient genre to generate a mind map using word association.

The mind map is centered on the term Electronic Ambient with branches coming off for the subcategories Location, Effects, Instrument, Environment, Nature, Industrial, Drone, Drift, Texture, and Sound. Each subcategory has a list branching structure. For example words associated with location include country, Japan, and Europe. Effects includes pop, crackle, and flutter. Instrument includes synthesiser, piano, strings, and electric guitar. Environment includes underground, space, otherworld, and underwater. Nature includes rain, clouds, ocean, and pebbles. Industrial includes grating, construction, silence, and cars. Drone includes rumble, engine, machine, and drum. Drift includes wave, volume, expanse, and retract. Texture includes rough, soft, ethereal. Sound includes voice, cry, animal, liquid, and noise.

Referring to benchmark images of album covers by The Future Sound of London, Tangerine Dream, and Amorphous Androgynous helped me develop thumbnails.

Early on these had a more fantastic quality to them as I was also inspired by some of Dream Theater's concept albums with science fiction and fantasy imagery. However as the benchmarks were more abstract the thumbnails eventually took on this quality as well.

The thumbnails start as fanastical imagery such as a feathered crown floating over the sea, the face of a harpy, and feathers flying over a city in the clouds. As the thumbnails progress, they become more abstract and surreal such as a city on coral terrain, an eye forming out of curled feather shapes, crevaces and cliffs of coral, and seeing a sun or moon with looming buildings made of coral and underwater rocks.

Once I decided to focus on a scene of coral and more abstract walls of coral or underwater rock, I took photographs of sand, the ocean, and sky at Masthead Bay (Cleveland) with a Canon EOS 1500D. I scanned pigeon feathers at 600 pixels per inch so I could use them as image textures, and used stock photography for underwater imagery like coral and to make natural looking colour gradients. Some example imagery I used are shown below.

A scanned pigeon feather. A second scanned pigeon feather. A stock photo of underwater coral with the background cut out. A photo of the ocean at Masthead Bay. A photo of an overcast sky at Masthead Bay. A close up photo of sand with wires of seaweed, twigs, grass, and pockmarked with holes. A close up photo of smooth fine grain sand. A close up photo of sand with a large crevice down the middle and sand disturbed near it. An underexposed photo of the sun where the sky is near black and the sun appears like an orb of light. A photo of the ocean surface taken from the perspective of someone standing in it with ripples and reflected light expanding out from below.

Processing the elements in Adobe Photoshop involved layer masks, the healing brush, advanced blending modes, the colour range select tool, layer masks, the mesh warp tool, and gradient maps. Some of the gradients applied were taken from swan feathers, pink sunsets, purple coral, and blue skies.

If you would like to see the final design please see the Portfolio. If you would like to work with me, feel free to send me a message! 😊

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