Matthew Bourne; The Leaf Label

Case Studies · 23rd February 2012

This month sees the release of Matthew Bourne’s highly acclaimed solo album “Montauk Variations” marking the start of his partnership with the The Leaf Label. The sleeve design by Split is one part of a larger project we undertook to create a full visual identity for the experimental pianist’s work with the label.

Sleeve Design:  The brief was to create not just an individual album sleeve design, but a design that would serve as a format for all future releases on The Leaf Label.

Under the “Matthew Bourne Presents” banner, Matt’s releases will be free to feature a diverse and exciting range of different projects and collaborations. We wanted to find a way to give a strong visual identity to his output on the label so representing it as a cohesive body of work, yet allow for each release to be individual and unique.

Attempting to predict what Matthew Bourne might do in the next moment of a performance is nearly impossible, let alone predicting what form his next album might take. Any overall format for the album sleeves had to be created with this in mind. The typography, layout and information hierarchy are designed to be flexible enough to incorporate all the possible differences in information between releases (though we fully expect Matt to test this to its limits!) whilst at the same time being careful to not let the requirements of designing the overall format affect the strength of the individual design for each cover.

The photography is provided by regular collaborator Jon Stanley Austin and his distinctive, gritty style and vintage aesthetic will create a strong-yet-subtle link between all the covers, as well as to the website (see below). The content, subject matter and character of each image will be completely free and will be led by Matt’s vision for each release. At the same time – as with Matt’s own musical style – the personal, idiosyncratic style of Jon’s photography will naturally help to bring all the individual parts together as a whole.

“The cover design options provided by Split were right on the money, portraying exactly the clarity, focus and identity that we were looking for. I am indebted to Oli for his expeditious replies and design ideas and to Jon for his unique photography. It is an honour to have been able to present Montauk Variations in such beautifully-designed packaging – it seems almost strange with the ease in which it all came together.” – Matthew Bourne

Montauk Variations is on sale from the Leaf Label shop here: and comes very highly recommended.

Logo mark design: Used to tie everything together, the mark features across both the website and sleeve designs. It is formed from the layout of the black keys of a piano, with the last key shortened to create Matthew Bourne’s initials. Whilst it can be used alongside type wherever needed, the mark is designed so it can also be used in isolation, appearing both abstract and enigmatic – two traits prevalent in Matt’s musical personality.

Website Design: Going live at the end of 2011, was the result of a development process to find a site design that reflected Matt’s overall musical personality as well as providing a strong online platform to showcase and promote his recording, performance and writing as well as providing The Leaf Label with an outlet for the sale of his material.

The set of five striking full-page background images were again shot by Jon Stanley Austin in a day-long shoot that we spent scattering pages from Matt’s scores across the breath of Yorkshire.*

The concept behind the shoot came from Bourne’s combined process as both a contemporary composer and free-jazz improvisor: Once thrown up in the air by the composer, the individual fragments of the music are free to move in any direction, form any shape and come together in any way. No matter how many times the same score was thown in the air, the resulting images would never be the same.

Moving forwards with the design, Matt was heavily involved in the structure of the site, wanting a very clean, simple menu and taking great care over the name and place of each link to ensure the menu that was both highly accessible and a pleasure to navigate .

To accurately reflect Matt’s musical personality the site had to be quirky and unconventional in some ways (such as the sideways, rather than length ways scrolling), yet at the same time we needed to ensure that despite this the site had to be functional and be easy to use.

The home page forms a hub for the site with the news and upcoming appearances feeding automatically from the main news/appearances content. Social media links and the mailing list sign up feature clearly from the home page, and the ‘share’ link in the top corner appears on every page allowing users to simply and quickly link others to any page of the site.

As of the end of February, the site will also feature a shop allowing users to purchase both physical products as well as download audio and video content as well as scores from Matt’s private archive.

The full site uses WordPress as the Content Management System. This gives the guys at The Leaf Label full control to easily edit the content, including all copy, images, shop stock and orders and the pop-up sound player.

You can view the full site here:

* For the environmentally conscious among you – all but two or three pages were collected and taken home with us. We consider the couple of pages we missed part of Matt’s continued efforts to help inspire the sheep of the world to reach greater cultural enlightenment.

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