Gene Shorts is writer producer who primarily makes synthwave, a genre popularised with the movie “Drive” that borrows heavily from 1980s synth based music. Gene and I collaborated on a few creative projects, most notably on his forthcoming EP as well producing CG animation and visuals for his music that strike a relationship between the classic synthwave aesthetic and Gene’s brief.
I started with a mood board to shape the look and feel of the album cover. Using Dadaism as a key reference from Gene’s brief, I aimed to create a surreal visual style by borrowing the cut-and-paste and chaotic composition that is synonymous of early 20th century movement. By updating the subject matter, I found it fitting for the futuristic 80’s vibe throughout Gene Shorts music. Dadaism’s visual style traditionally uses unorthodox materials such as newspaper cuttings, political propaganda and absurdist subject matter to make powerful statements on modern society. It is a style often used in modern design but seldom referenced explicitly as many of its idiosyncrasies have been absorbed by our modern cultural memory and can come off as trite and unimaginative. This became the key visual challenge to solve throughout the design process.
The final visuals contain various metaphors and hints toward the personal story of Gene Shorts as well as commentary on the current political and societal climate. The main focal point is an amalgam of planet Earth and Mars. The dolphin represents nature and the Rocket represents future space exploration. The dolphin splashing out of the Earth creates a very satisfying yet absurd contrast to the spaceship and is also a slight reference to the first vapourwave record produced by Chuck Person ‘Ecco Jams Vol. 1’, a key influence in the synthwave genre. The black circle engulfing this image evokes both the idea of a speaker and a black hole, again tying to the theme of nature and space.
The lopsided S in the title of the EP is a simple way to evoke the catastrophe that the word crash implies and also a subtle reference to Dada’s chaotic style.