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To serve audiences

They are integral to every music album. Some, like those for Nirvana's "Nevermind" and The Beatles' "Abbey Road", grow to become iconic. They help interpret the music of some albums and serve as basic graphic form of identification for others. They all have to stand out to attract the buyers of albums either on a shelf or a popular streaming website. They are album covers and this year, for the fifth time, they are going to vie for primacy in the album art contest dubbed Konkurs 30/30.

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30/30, press materials

The history of Konkurs 30/30 shows there is no universal design that will appeal to all judges. Minimalist artwork, such as that for the covers of "Pięćdziesiątki" of the band Malarze and "Żołnierze" by Mateusz Holak, the winner of the first edition, have little in common with Natasza Dot Masłowska & Marianna Prange's melancholy photographic dust jacket "En Route" of the band Miss is Sleepy, which triumphed in the second edition. A colourful portrait of the frontman of the band Max Bravura Maciej Wachowiak (who co-authored an award-winning piece together with Anna Orłowska and Piotr Chucla) reigned supreme in the following edition. A year ago, a panel of judges led by Rosław Szaybo, conferred the first prize on the Kraków-based graphic designer Maciej "Animisiewasz" Grochot for art on the cover of "Speak to My Soul Remix" by Soothsayers. A distinction was given to the painted portrait of Maryla Rodowicz by Aleksandra Osadzińska, which ended up on the front cover of the album "Ach, świecie". There is something in addition to unquestionable artistic value that is shared by all these covers. That thing is their ingenious link with the music that the artwork illustrate. As noted by Aleksandra Kujawiak, the secretary of this year's contest committee, this very musical inspiration was key to all judges. 

A tough choice

This year's panel of judges, composed of visual arts and music industry experts, is headed by the above-mentioned famous Polish posterist Rosław Szaybo. He is accompanied by Ryszard Kaja, a designer of graphics, stage sets and posters; the music reviewer Tomasz Janas; Tomasz Piróg, photographer and graphic artist; Jacek Sobczyński, music journalist; Rafał Szenrok of the Marine Graphic Studio; Mariusz Torzecki - head of the Exhibition and Education Department of the Museum of Polish Song in Opole; Michał Wiraszko, the songwriter and musician in the band Mucha; Joanna Żabierek, a graphic artist from the artistic agency Go-Ahead; Ewelina Muraszkiewicz, an art historian associated with Galeria Miejska Arsenał, and Marcin Kostaszuk from the Department of Culture of the Poznań City Hall. 

The judges selected their favourites from among 170 submissions. The top 30 of the most remarkable artworks will be framed and displayed in the Stary Browar (Old Brewery)'s Gallery. The event will also include side events such as concerts, a vynil market and a workshop featuring Forin, one of Poland's most popular cover artists, who has collaborated with O.S.T.R, Kaliber 44, Pezet, Miuosh and many others. The finale of Konkurs 30/30 and the official gala will take place during the Spring Break festival on 26 April at 6pm.

The new trend

Interestingly, the authors whose works were featured in this year's exhibition, include two - wait for it - musicians! Mikołaj Bugajak (Noon) and Grzegorz Ciemciach of the band OOBE, helped create covers for their own CDs, showing that for many music artists, a CD cover is more than just an interesting package. The cover is part and parcel of the whole undertaking of producing a music album. This trend has long been evident on the Polish music scene on which covers for own albums have been co-authored by such acclaimed musicians as Bovska, Fisz and Justyna Chowaniec. It is only appropriate on this occasion to mention Macio Moretti (nominated in this year's edition for the cover of the album "Głodny" ("Hungry") of the band Sonbird), who has long combined his work as a multi-instrumentalist with a career of a graphic artist who is well-established in the music world. 

Applied art

It is intriguing to see how few album front covers actually portray musicians' images. It is hardly a rule to include a portrait photograph, as beautiful as they can be, as in the case of the portrait by Daniel Jaroszek placed of the cover of "The Dumplings". Pure graphic forms, as seen in the works of Paweł Ryżko ("Knowledge about society" Lao Che) and Łukasz Paluch (Evorevo), appear to confirm the assertion of Mariusz Torzecki, one of the judges, who noted that minimalist cover artwork works wonderfully in today's times of the Internet and the smartphone (see the theme of this edition, pp. 6-7). This tendency has been further confirmed by the final jury selection of the top 30 cover designs. 

The simplicity of artwork on the albums of Dawid Podsiadło (authored by Bartłomiej Walczuk and Jacek Kołodziejski), Sroczyński (by Agnieszka Dybowska) and the band Evorevo (by Łukasz Paluch) is simply brilliant. The multitude of forms and the ease of reproduction allow these covers to rise beyond their original function and become a graphic symbol of entire musical projects of given artists. A case in point is the "Małomiasteczkowy Tour" ("Small Town Tour") by Dawid Podsiadło, set in the branded colour scheme reminiscent of the album's cover. Visitors entering the concert in Hall 3A on the grounds of the Poznań International Fair could not miss the gigantic screens next to the stage that displayed text set on a distinctively green background. This may well be the future of cover artwork and the trend that their creators are going to follow. 

In each of his numerous interviews, Rosław Szaybo, who has had the pleasure of designing artwork for Judas Priest, The Clash, Elton John and Krzysztof Komeda, to name a few, always repeats that any CD cover, poster or, more broadly speaking, graphic design, is a form of applied art. Applied in the sense of serving its audience. And the audience in 2019, much like that in the 1960s, can appreciate well-designed artwork, whether in a cover or logo. Even if, today, there is often no longer a physical disc with music to be found underneath.

Adam Jastrzębowski

translation: Krzysztof Kotkowski

Exhibition of top CD covers from the album art contest Konkurs 30/30

Stary Browar (Old Brewery), Galeria na Dziedzińcu (Gallery in the Courtyard), open until 28 April

© Wydawnictwo Miejskie Posnania 2019