Design Notes: Sean Mosher-Smith

Music Packaging with an ADC Member

055d30eThere’s a consistent thread throughout my work. Whether it’s bright and colorful or really dark, there’s always something that I feel and that other people have told me identifies it as my work. Coming up through the music industry and working at record labels for 15 years, most of the time I had to change my style for the type of music I was art directing. It taught me how to shift my style from dark to colorful, from pop to alternative, from urban to R&B. But I do think there’s still that thread of me through every piece. Developing that personal style is not something you can force yourself into; it happens organically so that there’s still a piece of you in all the work.

Classic Stylings

Upon first hearing Burlap to Cashmere I knew I had to work with them. They’re an amazing close-knit band whose music is described by AltMusic as “‘60s-style acoustic folk with Greek rhythms, flamenco guitar, and influences from James Taylor to Cat Stevens to Van Morrison.”

I worked very closely with their drummer ‘Teddy Pagano crafting an organic style that matched the music on Build A Wall. Working with a self-forced limited color palette, graphic overlaps and beautiful photography, we directed in Asbury Park, NJ.

Teddy and I collected manuals and small graphic samples from the ‘50s and ‘60s to inspire the package design along with classic band photos from the time period.
We also worked with period typefaces. I was able to develop a warmth and continuity akin to the music on the record. There is still something textured and layered which I bring to all my work.

Personal Inspiration

Stone Sour’s House of Gold & Bones Parts 1 & 2 is a collection of tracks that follow an immersive, linear storyline. It sees the protagonist at a physical and philosophical crossroads faced with weighty decisions that will impact whether or not he wakes from the dream in which he’s trapped.

Corey Taylor, lead singer, asked me to interpret his story in a way that I saw it, not how he saw it. At first this was a challenge, staring at a blank canvas wondering where to begin. I started dissecting the main character and rebuilding him using photos I had been taking around Lake Ontario and constructing the protagonist out of various images and drawings I had done. I wanted to keep it all in black and white the same way The Wizard Of Oz starts out in black and white.

From there I built on the layers that made up the main character, the multiple personalities, the desolate landscapes and most importantly, the house itself.
The package, when joined with the digipack of Part 2, combines to form a three-dimensional house. After the struggle for the cover image and coming up with something I liked, I presented to the band and the rest just flowed. Part 2 became a continuation and conclusion to the story of the struggle within the protagonist to find the self.

Mood & Concept

I was able to tackle another heavy subject with Tori Amos’ Night of Hunters. It is a concept album that Amos has described as “a 21st century song cycle inspired by classical music themes spanning over 400 years.” It is the exploration of “the hunter and the hunted and how both exist within us” through the story of “a woman who finds herself in the dying embers of a relationship.” The concept centers on a woman who is left alone on the eve of her relationship’s demise in an old Georgian house near the River Bandon, located on the outskirts of Kinsale, County Cork in Ireland.

Each song had an accompanying picture and the story was told both lyrically and visually. I believe I was called upon to create mood and drama in the package, from the dark and ominous opening pages showing the turbulent stormy waters (again I turned to my wonderful Lake Ontario retreat for images) to the lush greens and beautiful images I treated of Tori and Ireland.


Sean Mosher-Smith is a creative director and owner of Echo Designlab, a design studio producing work for brands and musical artists based in Brooklyn, NY.