Just how important is that often overlooked element of your self-produced (or company-produced for that matter) CD packaging referred to as the spine? You know what I’m talking about: that information strip on either edge of your CD packaging that (should) contain the artist name, the release title, the label name, and catalogue numbers. Longtime record collectors will know what I’m talking about here. Remember those classic Impulse! Records releases? Think about the records (vinyl or CD) from John Coltrane’s fertile last phase of his recording career. Remember those distinctive black & orange Impulse! spines, the ones you could walk right up to your record shelves and spot at a glance, the ones that — providing you’re blessed with even limited range field of vision — you could practically spot on your shelves from across the room, the ones with those instantly recognizable graphics? Now think for a moment about the flood of seemingly — particularly by comparison — anonymous releases, many of them self-produced by artists, which glut the 21st century record marketplace. Then ask yourself why so few are paying attention to what should be a user-friendly no-brainer of a graphic design element.
The average record collector, even those with relatively modest collections, stack their records on some kind of shelf (OK, we’re talking largely about the CD universe here, but there remain those dedicated vinyl collectors out there, including a growing legion who have come to recognize the inherently better sound qualities of well-preserved vinyl recordings over the relatively brittle sonic properties of the digital world). Given that glut of record releases, ya’ think it might be a wise consideration to make your graphics completely user-friendly and pay more specific attention to those two oft-overlooked edges or spines? Are you interested in users, i.e. your consumers, removing your recording(s) from their shelves for repeat listens? Then pay attention to those spines! And be very careful how you blend your color scheme, weighted heavily on the user-friendly side as opposed to the overly-artful side. Do not design your spines with dark lettering on dark background, no navy blue lettering on black background or yellow lettering on orange or red background, no matter how artsy that may feel to you. Keep it simple — dark lettering on light background or vice versa. I was filing some records just today, including some from a New Orleans-themed recent radio program focusing on the just-concluded 2009 Duke Ellington Jazz Festival in DC. I couldn’t help but notice how the savvy Branford Marsalis has designed his Marsalis Music discs with uniformly medium blue spines with simple white lettering that stand out from the crowd. Pay attention to the design of your spines!!!