What Music Looks Like.

Christopher Doyle
2 min readJul 17, 2023
Artwork for The Man Is Dead by The Jezabels

The following text was taken from our 2023 studio publication, Nothing I Know Belongs To Me, published by Formist.

Record covers are my earliest memory of experiencing graphic design. Not just seeing it, but holding it. Interacting with it. I would sit in the lounge room of the house I grew up in poring over the Stand By Me soundtrack, unable to separate the feeling of the film from the music and imagery presented on the vinyl release.

Years later I found myself in a loud, messy band, charged with designing the artwork for our first release. I was partway through my design degree and really had no idea what I was doing or what design was. I knew I loved everything Jeff Caudill designed at Revelation Records. But I couldn’t figure out how he did it. Or what it was that made me connect with the work so much. The closest I came was understanding it was about creating a feeling. Something I would later learn is one of the most delicate and elusive elements of design. The covers that stayed with me somehow managed to convey an emotion, a nostalgia, and a connection to the music that seemed so clear and intentional, yet so abstract. In my second job, I was introduced to the work of Mark Farrow and Peter Saville and fell even more in love with what felt like art created in response to art. Like many young creative people, I emulated my idols, slowly trying to figure out my way of doing it.

In 2008, I was lucky enough to be hired by Dave Batty, manager of The Jezabels, to create the artwork for the band’s first EP, The Man Is Dead. An idea (in the loosest sense of the word) was settled on, the singer’s then-boyfriend was cast, and my colleague Robbie agreed to shoot it. In some sort of fluke occurrence, the result was everything I had loved in those albums from years earlier. Somehow we had created a feeling. There was intention but also space for interpretation. Now, fifteen years later, I still feel it’s as close as I have ever come to getting it right.

I believe designing for music is one of the hardest and most abstract design processes. I say yes almost every time I am asked to work on a record cover. Only to quickly discover I have no idea how to make the work. It can’t be approached the way a traditional design brief can be. At least I can’t approach it that way. For me, it’s a process of collecting, experimenting, playing, and waiting. All the while not knowing how to get there, or if I even will.