I love working with music. So I was very happy when Colin Z. Robertson aka Hands of Ruin asked me to design a cover for his soundtrack album to James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber’s 1933 silent film, Lot in Sodom, based on the Biblical tale of the city of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Prior to Lot, Colin designed a soundtrack to Watson and Webber’s earlier film, a 1928 horror film adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, The Fall of the House of Usher, about a story of a brother and sister who live under a family curse. The Usher soundtrack, currently available to watch on YouTube, will also be released on Bandcamp, and I’m in charge of its cover and booklet design too.
Both films use experimental techniques, like superimposed shots, shooting through prisms and various optical distortions. They very much fit with the avant-garde and expressionist art of the 1920s and 1930s. Since this is probably my favourite period in art, I was incredibly excited to design something in that vein. Colin and I looked at lots of film poster design, such as these gems from 50 Watts website:
I started with some sketches and soon came up with two ideas for composition, which I executed as black and white drawings. Colin was happy with both of them, but since we both wanted to pay homage to the wonderful geometrical architecture in the film, we went for the second version. I therefore started experimenting with colours, and came up with a colour drawing, turned into a collage.
At that point, I was happy enough to start drawing the whole thing in vector in Illustrator, which was quite a long process. Again, I came up with a few variations, using more or less flat surfaces and outlines, before we found a version we both liked.
It was very important that the cover doesn’t look like an image that came straight out of modern vector graphics program—Colin wanted it to resemble that old style of print design as much as possible, with very limited and subdued colour palette and uneven texture as if the image was printed on a large sheet of paper.
And so we finally reached a point when I got an email saying: I love it! It’s looking great!, which is a deeply satisfying moment for every designer. But there was still some work to do—adding the text.
Again, I looked at modernist and futurist typefaces, and made a shortlist of those I thought would work well with the imagery, shapes and style of the illustration. I knew straight away that the phrase “Soundtrack by Hands of Ruin” would be in Canter font, designed by Christopher JH Lee, while I had a few ideas for “Lot in Sodom”: Canter, Zebrazil (as the font is only in Regular style, I added a bit of stroke to thicken in), Bazar, Akura Popo and Forgotten Futurist. Zebrazil was designed by Zarni, Bazar by Olinda Martins, Akura Popo by Fahrizal Tawakkal, and Forgotten Futurist–by Ray Larabie.
Bazar was the one we decided worked best, but it occurred to us that it might also be a good idea to experiment with hand-drawn lettering, based on the letters that appear in the film, which would tie it more to the style of it. I thought it would be a shame not to make use of this wonderfully stylized typography. And voila, here it is! There is also a booklet which is distributed together with the soundtrack, with some information about the film, the project and a list of tracks. You can watch Lot in Sodom on YouTube, and the album is available to buy from Bandcamp.