A couple of weeks ago, Michigan-based artist and illustrator Troy Deshano reached out to me about participating in his new side project entitled FUTURALBUM. The concept was simple: redesign an album cover of my choosing using an image from the Flickr Book Archive and the typeface Futura for any text. The project sounded like so much fun, I didn’t hesitate to accept the offer.

To choose my album, I hauled out my (very dusty) CD binder and flipped through my collection of discs. Although it seemed important to select an album with an evocative title, I also felt like I needed to redesign an album that I had a personal connection with. I ended up selecting Fort Minor’s first—and only—album, The Rising Tied. The album was released in 2005, and was created by Linkin Park’s MC, Mike Shinoda, along with two other hip-hop artists. The album was a personal project for Shinoda. Nearly every track features a virtually unknown guest artist, and it seems he used the project as a way to experiment with mixing different hip hop styles.

The research

According to an interview with Fixins Music (courtesy of Wikipedia), Shinoda named the album The Rising Tied as “a play on words.” He explained that “this ‘tied’ group of people are coming up together” as they produced the album. I thought about the concept of collaboration—how on so many of the album’s tracks feature a complex web of sounds, and how the album itself features so many artists and their different styles.

In addition to Shinoda’s idea of the album title, I also thought about what it meant to me personally. When I listen to hip hop music, it makes me feel stronger and as if I can take on just about anything. The feeling of this album title has always produced those emotions in me, as do many of the tracks on the album. And the songs are rich with different textures like waves rolling over one-another.

Finally, with the word “tide” is intentionally swapped with the similar “tied,” it is easy for your mind’s eye to still envision the undulation of a mighty ocean. Although there is no evidence that literal tides were inspiration for the album name, I explored that inspiration point anyway because the mental picture associated so strongly with me. The powerful crashing of waves, and the ebb and flow of the tide just felt like a fit with the music and with the rhythm of collaboration to me. I researched tides and stumbled on an really great video illustrating how tides work, where I learned how the sun, moon and earth interact with one another to effect the tides.

The final concept

In developing this concept, I wanted to create a design that reflected both Shinoda’s original ideas of artists coming together and collaborating and my own feelings about the album. I liked the idea of creating some sort of mesh-like element to represent collaboration and realized that I could do that using long oval shapes that also represented the tide patterns shown in the video.

My original intent had been to layer the ovals in different colors so that the areas where they overlapped created additional colors, but this approach proved to be too chaotic and futuristic looking. The music on the album definitely pays homage to the history of hip hop and even some historical events, so the bright colors just didn’t fit. I also experimented with a purely black-and-white color scheme but it lacked the passion I felt from the album.

The final artwork features the mesh pattern reversed out of a deep red gradient that creates the feeling of a rally cry. Through these elements I’ve layered an etching from the Book Archive of a ship at sea, tossed between crashing waves, but still remaining upright. The movement of the waves and the texture created by layering in this image feels like the layers of sound on many of the album’s songs. Finally, the type is set (in Futura, of course) on a circular path that represents connection.

Melissa Balkon Futuralbum submission - Fort Minor album cover