Image of Lucoq album cover by Taiyo Yamamoto

Best of Behance: Taiyo Yamamoto

By Jenny Carless

Who: Taiyo Yamamoto

What: Album cover design


Behance member since: 2010

It takes a special type of imagination to create an image that can represent the sound of a music album. For designer Taiyo Yamamoto, creating album covers—like the rest of his design work—can be very introspective.

“When designing an album cover, you can either create artwork that matches the music itself or purposefully make something totally different, to let the listener imagine the world outside of the music,” says Yamamoto. “There is a wide range of what can be expressed. When I find that perfect balance between the two, the feeling I get is irreplaceable.”

Yamamoto does most of his 2D artwork and designs with Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator.

Artwork for Future Challenge, a compilation album by the Japanese music label Diverse System, and for Exterior, an EP by Overed.

“Even for 3D, I use Photoshop and Illustrator to create textures to apply. When I want to use 3D software, I turn to V-Ray for 3dsMax,” he says. “Post-production processing is really smooth with 32bit Color HDR mode, so these days I always export data as multipath in OpenEXR format and use Nuke or Adobe After Effects to compose.”

“For the Exterior album cover, I wanted to express the feeling of sinking deep into the view of the mind, which is what I felt when I listened to the music.” Yamamoto explains.

He used Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to manage and preprocess the photos; then he used Photoshop to edit and collage the images, to adjust text layouts, and to create the actual print data.

“I used a common technique, where I overlay a texture such as a concrete wall in the finishing process to give it some detail and noise,” he says.

Here you can see part of the progression of the Exterior album cover: the base photograph image, the image with the sky replaced, the image with the circle added, and the image with a texture overlay.

To express the music’s raw and rough feeling, he handwrote the title instead of using type.

“My challenge with that was to get a rough scribble style with sensible details. Until I got that perfect balance, I tested many times in Photoshop, using a Wacom Intuos pen,” he explains.

Artwork for Fig. 1: Veil, a compilation album by the Japanese music label Diverse System, and artwork for Lucoq, a digital album by Calla Soiled.

“After a close listen to the album Lucoq, it sounded to me like a story from an unknown planet far away,” Yamamoto says. “So I imagined a strange plant that had been collected and brought back from that planet. That’s what you see on this cover.”

He turned to Photoshop to create a collage of images of tree bark, and he made that into a texture. “I wanted to use this texture for the base torus and make the shapes by using the Displacement effect,” he explains. “So I carefully adjusted the balance of each shape.”

After compositing the large image in Nuke, he made a series of crop variations, from which he created multiple album covers. Since this album was a digital release, a different album cover is embedded for each song. (The album can be downloaded from this website, which Yamamoto also designed and built.)

Here you can see part of the progression of the Lucoq album cover.

Yamamoto has been a professional graphic designer for about five years. “My passion for design first bloomed when I saw the in-game graphics from Beatmania IIDX, when I was still a junior high school student.” he says. He couldn’t have imagined that he would be providing video material to Beatmania IIDX in his future career.

He first caught a glimpse of his favorite design tools—Photoshop and Illustrator—about ten years ago, because his father used them. He is largely self-taught, and he says he gained his video and design skills through experimentation.

“At first, I didn’t know how to make movies, so I was making flipbook animations with Photoshop. Then, a few years later, After Effects became my first video editing tool,” he recalls. “I think I use fairly basic techniques, but still I can’t imagine working without them; they’re as important to my design work as the air I breathe.”

Today, Yamamoto works primarily as a motion graphics designer at flapper3 Inc. in Tokyo. At the moment, he’s also working on a CD album cover and making a music video. (Look for some of this new work to be released later this year.)

For more of Taiyo Yamamoto’s work, visit his Behance profile.

October 27, 2015

Images: courtesy of Taiyo Yamamoto