Mixed Tapes

Posted inDesign Inspiration
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One of the things I most enjoy at Print is curating Image of the Day — it’s a process of discovery and learning and can be rewarding when our Twitter followers let us know we’ve done well.

On February 11th (via Antonio Carusone’s fantastic blog Aisle One) I came across a Flickr photo set dedicated to graphic inserts used in blank cassette tape packaging of the 1970s and 80s (put together by Bruce Jamieson of the esteemed UK design firm I Love Dust). This was an exciting find for me, not just as interesting graphic design, but more personally for the flood of memories that came with it — these were some of the graphics of my early childhood, part of the texture of the dusty shelves and odd spaces of our apartment. And I had forgotten them completely.

Reading through the gallery’s comments page, there’s a sense of relief that Mr. Jamieson has put these online, with multiple comments referring to the danger of these graphics being lost to time. When, on that same day, we made his gallery Image of the Day, we received a number of messages on Twitter to the same effect.

The internet can feel particularly empowering and democratic at times like this — while raising the bittersweet prospect of all those other things that remain forgotten. As a personal aside, I recall New York supermarkets in the late 1980s advertising products and prices in large, colorful, almost soap-like bubbles in their windows. If anyone has images or recollections of these please do come forward!

Novelty aside, many of these graphics were the work of some very good designers. On top of the highly inventive use of color and type in very tight spaces, many of the tape graphics feature interesting pattern work in the spirit of audio transmission.

Another great resource dedicated to cassette tapes of the 70s and 80s is a website called C-90. As much of the content demonstrates, a number of the companies at the time were investing not only in graphic inserts, but also in the often very graphic design of the tape itself.

My research into the back story of these designs didn’t yield much, though the designers were presumably employed in-house. If anyone knows more about these designers it would be great to give them their due.

Below, a few of my favorites (click to enlarge):