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Process: The Modern Electric

For about the past five months (since I started working on the exec board for our college radio station), I’ve begun to realize how much I want to stay involved in music after I’m out of school. Music has been an integral part of my life in a variety of ways since I was 10 years old, and I can’t imagine my life without it. Throughout college I thought I wanted to pursue a career in branding, but I’ve started to look for design opportunities in the music industry as well. Of course, when I created my portfolio last semester, it was solely for branding and print design — no music design at all. So, to begin building a portfolio for the music industry, I started with a project that I’ve always dreamed of working on: an album cover.

The Modern Electric, based in my hometown of Cleveland, call themselves a cinematic pop band; their music is about having a love and a life just like in the movies. They are fantastic and I cannot recommend their music enough. Their self-titled album, released in 2009, is one of my all-time favorites, and I chose it to be the basis of my project. I didn’t want to redesign the album cover for, say, The Shins’ Oh, Inverted World, or anything else so well-known and iconic because of the expectations and associations surrounding their design; since The Modern Electric are still relatively small, I felt I still had a liberty to design their album and brand according to my own vision.

The Modern Electric’s iconic lamp, set atop Garrett’s piano.

The Modern Electric are very much involved with the idea of being vintage; as I mentioned before, their music is called “cinematic pop” and is heavily inspired by classic movies. At their live shows, The Modern Electric have a unique set-up of props that include a big projector screen, a ship-in-a-bottle lamp with a funky shade, and an amp bedecked with floral wallpaper. They literally set the stage for every performance, only increasing the feeling of nostalgia that flows through so much of their music. It was this kind of a feeling that I wanted the brand, the album and the promotional materials to convey.

I wanted the band’s logo to look as if it would be right at home on a movie poster or a title card, and I wanted the color palette to mainly stick to black and white, just like an old movie. I also knew I wanted to use vintage photography as a main component of the designs, but was not quite sure what direction to take with that. After some searching on Flickr, I stumbled upon galleries of users’ old family photos. I happened upon a photo of a couple kissing and knew it was the perfect image for my album cover; I also collected some other vintage photos of couples and young women that I knew could be valuable in other parts of the brand.

Brainstorming mood board for The Modern Electric.
Some of the old photos I found on Flickr (see Behance for credits).

After finding the right photography, the album’s front cover, packaging, and the rest of its related promotional materials fell right into place. Everything just seemed to fit and it felt like the music sounded: reminiscent of love in the days gone by. Check out my final designs on Behance and also be sure to give The Modern Electric a listen on Bandcamp or Spotify!

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