M&CO designs for Talking Heads

An excerpt from Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist on the process behind the design of the Remain in Light cover art:

“David Byrne and his band members in the Talking Heads had had a tough time producing an ambitiously conceived, blind embossed cover for their second album, Fear of Music, and were tired of the whole design process. Seizing the moment (and engaging in a practice as old as the term ‘spec work’) Kalman volunteered to do their next album – subsequently named Remain in Light – for free, and subsequently pitched them ‘a zillion comps.’ Although he was zealous, nothing worked. ‘And they were right,’ Kalman recalls. ‘We didn’t hit it. We were doing all textures, because we had figured that since they had already done an elaborate tactile package, they would want to have a foam rubber, sandpaper, or some other weird cover.’

A few months after the initial attempt, two of the band members, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, arrived at M&Co with four faintly sinister photographs that had been digitally concocted at the M.I.T. Media Lab with a process that partially obliterated each band member’s face with a red mask. ‘This was around the time of the Iran hostage crisis,’ says Kalman. ‘We immediately seized on those four eerie pictures as the way to go.’ Next, with [Carol] Bokuniewicz, they came up with ‘500 different solutions’ for the arrangement and choice of type until Kalman remembered a little tissue that he had made with the ‘As’ in ‘Talking Heads’ upside down. The band liked the approach. Kalman also designed a lyric sheet for Remain in Light, which he designed by specifying the typography over and over to give it a musical cadence. ‘I am quote proud of it to this day,’ he admits, ‘especially given the technology it was done with.’ On the back of the sleeve are pictures of World War II planes treated with the same masking effect. The album was released and M&Co marked its own debut as a design firm in the cultural arena.”