Archive for the ‘Tuneless’ Category


Yellow Cans: The Ghastly Design of Budget Compilations

September 7, 2012

Writing my upcoming Generation X review got me thinking about the whole budget compilation phenomenon. It’s an aspect of music marketing I’ve always found fascinating.

Why do these Best Of packages get the equivalent of the yellow labels of No Name brand soup? Do people really buy music because it looks cheap? I feel like they don’t, yet every major label has a line of these things. I’m often baffled and  offended when I see my favourite artists getting the insultingly drab, generic budget compilation treatment.

It would really not cost the record company that much more to give these budget editions some decent and unique design. Or at least, not what appears to be intentionally shoddy design. But, as shoppers, we apparently need a visual cue that these compilations are “a steal” or we won’t even give them the time of day.

It’s like when you look at the grocery store shelf and you see those yellow No Name cans, you know they’re going to be at least 25 cents cheaper. You don’t even have to look at the price-tag. If all you want is the lowest price, you just put them in your basket and move on. This is the basic psychology behind these CD designs.

So, let’s run through some examples of Ghastly Budget Compilation Design…

When it first came out, the 20th Century Masters series by Universal was actually a step up in the design template department for budget compilations. The typography is decent enough and they generally use passable photos of the artists. Yet the drab grey borders are a tad dreary and imply a cheap, one-colour print job even though they are almost always actually printed in four-colour process (such as the Donna Summer disc shown).

This is clearly intentional to tell the shopper, from fifty paces, that this is the affordable option on the rack. Just like the yellow No Name cans.

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