I’ve been a fan of Thomas Dolby ever since I picked up the UK 12″ vinyl of Europa and the Pirate Twins from Boogie Records back in 1982. Ever since then, I’ve followed the work he’s done and watched him branch out into the worlds of soundtrack work, movies, multimedia and digital music technology. Then the internet flattened out the playing field and gave me the opportunity to cross paths with Thomas via a call for a t-shirt design for a one-off gig he was doing. From there, we started a collaborative professional relationship that extends to this day, and hopefully into the future.
My work with Thomas has been rewarding and has challenged me to extend my design practice into fields I’ve not explored before. Thomas is the best kind of client; the one that “tricks” you into doing your best work by asking you to make something you’ve never seen before. The design solutions that occur in our work resolve in ways that neither of us fully planned, but better for the collaborative nature of our interaction. Dolby’s own musical career has been much the same, putting him in collaboration with some of the most influential and forward-thinking people on the planet. My connection to that influence can only make me a better graphic designer and creator.
Album cover designs, CD cases and single sleeves for Thomas Dolby’s musical releases.
THE FLOATING CITY VIDEO GAME
Prior to the release of his album A Map of the Floating City, Thomas created and collaborated with game programmers and designers from around the world to launch The Floating City, an immersive dieselpunk multi-player online game that divided players from around the world into nine tribes on three fictional continents and set them to collecting clues and solving puzzles and missions based on Thomas’ music and the real-time history being created in the game. The game was map-based and forum driven, with the players collaborating and exchanging information and humor and art on the message boards, all working towards gaining the rewards of downloading Dolby’s music, the eventual release of his new album, and a private concert for the winning continent’s players. The game was developed to interact on multiple social media platforms, and to encourage online collaborations between players scattered around the globe, with real-time live events (chats, concerts and role play) highlighting the 3 month active game play.
My work on the game was to design the overall look and feel of the game’s graphics and visual design, uniting the many different parts with a consistent and theme appropriate look, tying it all into the design of the upcoming album. Many of the samples here are of game components that were used by the players, in the form of clues, downloads and inter-game communications, as well as designs for in-game characters and events.
THE TIME CAPSULE TOUR
Thomas’ Time Capsule tour was in support of his A Map of the Floating City album, and he came up with the idea of creating a small modified camper/trailer fitted with state-of-the-art video equipment that could record concert goers 30-second messages to future generations, warning them or encouraging them or making observations to be stored and shared with other fans around the world.
Thomas gave me the links to the base trailer design and basically said “Make it look really cool.” I took him at his word and Photoshopped up a diesel-punky trailer for the ages. From my image file, Thomas then had talented L.A. movie industry builders take my image and actually modify and create our vision into 3 dimensional reality. The trailer appeared at every tour stop in the continental US concert tour, and recorded scores of messages, including videos from Bill Nye and Reggie Watts.
I was also responsible for creating the trade dress of all aspects of the concert tour, including press passes, crew ID, promotional posters and ads and tour t-shirts and merchandise design.
THE INVISIBLE LIGHTHOUSE TOUR
Thomas has always been very involved with the filmmaking of his music videos, and worked closely with the many innovative directors associated with his video work. With the advent of digital filmmaking getting more and more affordable, Thomas decided to make a movie about the demolition of an iconic lighthouse near his home in England.
What started out as a simple documentary became an idea for a multi-media tour, where the film would be shown alongside live music, sound effects and narration, followed with Q&A sessions with the audience and local creatives joining Dolby onstage to talk about their processes. I was asked to join Thomas onstage for the Detroit stop on the tour, to talk about our work together.
PROMOTIONAL TITLE CARDS
For the pre-release promotion of A Map of the Floating City album, I made a set of retro-styled movie title cards to reference the “Urbanoia” portion of the album, inspired by the masterful typographic design in films of the 1930’s and 1940’s.
"The Speed of Sound" Book Jacket
Thomas was in the process of writing his autobiography THE SPEED OF SOUND (Flatiron Publishing, 2016) when he contacted me about doing the design of the book’s dust jacket. After getting approval to have me submit designs for consideration, Flatiron contracted me to do the full book jacket design and set the interior style guide for the internal pages and chapter headers. Once the book was formally solicited, I was contacted by a UK publisher to secure the rights to use my design for the European editions of the book, and soon after was also contacted by Audible US to secure the rights for using my cover design for the audio book cover/icon.
Various Dolby related graphics, designs and sketches for projects.
Paul Sizer has a terrific eye for composition, layout and color. His creations are always challenging and full of intrigue.Thomas Dolby