Art Chantry on the enigmatic problems and cultural ramifications posed by of the 3 1/4 inch hole…
Art Chantry (email@example.com):
“A 3 1/4 Inch Hole.” that’s the name of book i’ve been trying to pitch to publishers for decades. nobody ever bit. The basic idea of the book would be reproducing all of these interesting items in a nice square 7″ book and then drilling a 3 1/4″ hole right through the entire thing. Basically it would be a big hole surrounded by a book. The thing I like about this really contrary and stupid idea is that it’s exactly the problem every single designer of old generic 45 sleeves had to deal with.
Have you ever pondered the generic 45 cover? Probably not. There were the ultimate disposable item, total trash. You’d rip through them to get at the 7″ slab of vinyl inside. Many of them managed to survive and made their way into thrift stores and used record stores and jukebox repair shops. But the vast majority of them were tossed out quicker than a beer bottle.
Well, I collect them. I’ve been collecting them for nearly 30 years. I think they are fascinating. Almost all record companies produced them, often millions of them. But, finding good clean intact copies is really hard.
Imagine having to design something around a hole big enough to eat up almost half of your art? Surprisingly they have the most amazing inventive design solutions. And they were virtually all designed by unknowns. At best it was the sort of assignment that the record company art director shoved off on the intern. I mean, just look at it! Cheap cheap (usually brown) paper, really crappy printing (flexo?),one, sometimes two colors, usually not. All sorts of logos and information and catalog numbers and crap, even reproductions of other records released by the label. And with all of those restrictions, you had to deal with a big fucking 3 1/4″ hole punched smack dab right through the middle of your design. Impossible.
But, the design solutions that all those thousands of little designer heads regularly developed are really great. Swirls, bars, crazy type, jumping illustrations, incorporation of the hole as part of the illustration. Everything you could never ever have thought of in a million years. It sorta blows me away (to quote tiger).
What I like best about all these crazy sleeves is the fact that they were designed by nobodies, totally forgotten industrial graphic designers or junior loser interns. These items were created by people striving to get ahead in a system that placed them at the bottom. They were literally starving to do their work and beyond desperate to say what they wanted to say with this language. They were the ultimate frustrated starving artists. They would take this terrible opportunity to say their piece – look what i can do! And we all noticed about as long as it took to rip it off and toss it away.
I have hundreds and hundreds of these things – all different. The little labels might produce one design and use it until they couldn’t afford to reprint. The big major labels changed design with the wind. I think Columbia and RCA each had maybe hundreds of designs over the years. But the best ones are for those little labels that nobody ever heard of. Or, better yet, the little little little labels that were produced as desperate vanity projects for little self-released records sold off the stage after a performance. They are so sweet and naive. So earnest. It’ll bring a tear to your eye to look at them.
Oh, and as an accompanying book to this idea? A book of cool old 45 rpm record labels – and that book would have a 1 1/2 inch hole punched through the middle of it! I sorta dreamed of them being shrink-wrapped together as a prepackaged xmas gift item in Borders. That way you’d have two books sandwiched together and you could see the 45 label book (with the hole drilled in the middle of it) through the hole drilled in the center of the