David Bowie's website goes through some Ch-ch-changes
David Bowie has launched a new website, designed by Jonathan Barnbrook, to coincide with the announcement of a new single and album, The Next Day.
The new davidbowie.com adopts a relatively minimal, streamlined approach, with the site divided into straightforward, easily accessible sections, organised by a header bar. There's a lengthy David Bowie biography to be read through, as well as selected videos from the Bowie archive to peruse. Bowie's previous website was ten years old - ancient in internet years - so Barnbrook's work has been a complete overhaul of what was previously there.
Barnbrook explains, "We wanted to give it a completely different tone from before. This comes from Bowie being somewhat quieter. People have had the chance to be a bit more thoughtful and reflective understanding his positioning in the history of music, and it would be disingenuous to pretend he is the new rocker in town, so the site reflects that. When you are someone like David Bowie, you don't need to shout. We wanted it to be a more definitive place to get Bowie's creative output."
Whilst working on the site Barnbrook had to maintain absolute secrecy, even taking phone conversations on the street so the people he worked with didn't suspect anything.
Barnbrook also worked on the cover design for Bowie's new album, The Next Day, which reinvents the classic Heroes album artwork.
Barnbrook explains that the reappropriation of the Heroes artwork was an attempt to create something entirely new, he says, "Normally using an image from the past means, 'recycle' or 'greatest hits' but here we are referring to the title The Next Day. The "Heroes" cover obscured by the white square is about the spirit of great pop or rock music which is 'of the moment', forgetting or obliterating the past."
"If you are going to subvert an album by David Bowie there are many to choose from but this is one of his most revered, it had to be an image that would really jar if it were subverted in some way and we thought "Heroes" worked best on all counts." he says. The album is also the first use of new font Doctrine, which will be released in the next few weeks at VirusFonts. Barnbrook has written more about the work on and decisions behind the The Next Day artwork over in this blogpost.
If a new website and album aren't enough, the Bowie extravaganza will continue in March with a new Bowie exhibition at the V&A, entitled David Bowie is. The exhibition dives into the Bowie archive to select more than 300 objects for public viewing, including photography, set designs, costumes and hand-written lyrics. The V&A also promise access to never-before-seen storyboards, set lists and lyrics, alongside sketches and diary entries from the man himself. The exhibition will be at the V&A from March 23 - July 28. Check back into the CR blog nearer the time for more details.
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I opened up my RSS reeder and clicked this whilst listening to Hunky Dory. Changes was on.
Why is it lackluster (or even lacklustre)?
[comment deleted by moderator. We will not be approving any tedious ad hominem attacks by anonymous commenters below this post. If you have anything interesting or insightful to say about this work, please do so. If all you want to do is bitch, don't bother]
I agree with @Gareth.
I find the site a bit boring and the album artwork seems to have a lot of thought behind it but think the concept could have been executed in a more interesting. Quieter is one thing but I find it all a bit cold and lacking in passion which I would never expect from Bowie. I can't believe I'm actually saying this but I find myself more drawn to Robbie Williams's new site. It's just a little unoriginal and too corporate.
Not sure you can describe anything about Bowie (or Barnbrook for that matter) as lucklustre, even when trolling.
RE: The article
I like the new-look site, needed a refresh and it's been done very well.
Not sure I like the concept of the record cover though, I don't get "living in the moment" or "obliterate the past, be in the present" from it.
Referencing any history suggests you're not forgetting it, or at the very least you're looking to the future, rather than living in the moment. I'd argue it needs to be more extreme in it's execution, just plain white with the new typeface displaying the record name. No artist name, no artwork, no referencing whatsoever; take it even further and there's even a case for just a blank record cover; and either Bowie or his people put the word out that it's called "The Next Day" through another method.
Either way, just my two penneth, still got an abundance of respect for both the artist and the designer.
I like it my comment has been blocked, yet I've previously read worst with four-letter swearing etc. in previous post comments. Mr. Burgoyne, BFFs with Jonathan by any chance?
If you want an opinion, the font is boring and corporate, as said previously. The colour scheme is dull and common-looking. David Bowie might be getting older but I don't think he'd want his music to look passé. The covering of his face is a common device that, for some reason, seems to appeal to other graphic designers, but not neccessarily to the general public. David Bowie and his team will leave behind an incredible legacy of design and fashion as well as extraordinary music, but this doesn't fit in.
Thank you for the new website because the old one was unbearable :-)
@ Anonymous Jr
Nothing to do with being friends with anyone and everything to do with trying to promote at least a semblance of intelligent debate rather than boring personal attacks. If you look at previous posts about Barnbrook you will see that we have allowed plenty of criticism of him and his work but this kind of comment crops up with wearisome predictability adding nothing new to the debate. By stepping in early and deleting your contribution I'm trying to stop this thread descending into that familiar trough. By the looks of it, it worked as you've now come back with an opinion on the work.
I see, so profusely swearing about other organisations and work is okay, but we must have an opinion on the almighty Jonathan Barnbrook. Also, what I said in my deleted post is factual, I have seen him in real life, and his personality reflects in his work.
There's an increasing amount of bitterness on these comment feeds and I'd hate to see it lead to CR stopping them. I don't mean people can't express a negative point of view, but there's a way of doing it. Some people just lack class.
the music (the single at least-i hope the album too), the visual work, the way it has been put out and the reaction to it is an extraordinary vindication for art, poetry, elegy, memory, standing apart, quiet diligence, thoughtfulness, silence, letting things find their way, exploring the backwaters, inspiration, . . . "The moment you know, you know, you know . . ." As a friend of mine said, "It's a truly beautiful piece of work. Quietness, integrity, honesty, craftsmanship. So hopeful."
btw Anonymous Jnr-your words might have a slight chance at meaning if you weren't . . . errrr . . . Anonymous.
Best cover I've seen for ages.
Smart, sharp, sinister. In a totally different pitch to everything else around.
I have a feeling this album will be so good and the way they are doing everything low key I think the single although iI love it it could be one of the weakest songs on it instead of bringing out the strongest songs to promote the album like everyone else does they are doing the opposite If that makes sense
I think the partnership with Barnbrook works well. As a release the new single wasn't accompanied with the now inherent build-up, fanfare and leaks. It was simply released. A simple and confident approach, carried through the artwork and the website. Works for me.
Don't find the website that inspiring, also try clicking on the menu items in the grey text, hmmm.
Quite a gutsy response from Mr Barnbrook as do something as simple as this appears on first glance, would require a lot of courage in your convictions. I think it will grow on me funnily enough and thats always the nicest work. What an enviable collaboration to boot, what designer wouldnt savour that opportunity.
People do forget that with websites, it need not look ‘pretty’ at all, as long as it is functional. On this post it has been called boring / uninspiring. People will visit it to learn about Bowie, so its not designed to be exciting or inspiring. Its not a piece of art. Technically it works very well.
I am intrigued by the new typeface though—easy to label it as appearing corporate etc but I don’t know much about it nor read the brief...Jonathan?
A website doesn't need to look 'pretty' you're right but it does need to be interesting whether that's through it's content, how it functions or how it looks. Being technically functional is essential but not enough otherwise the web would be a dull place. A chair is functional but a Eames chair is functional and beautiful. As for the typeface how many people are going to read the brief about it? Type needs to comunicate instantly and unfortunately for me this type in the context of the cover says utilitarian. However on the website the type does work in a more elegant way
In the context of all his other album covers (which on a quick look through aren't all that fantastic, IMO) this stands out a mile. Given the fact that most of them are a stylised image of Bowie as a headshot of some description, this represents a complete divergence from using his personal style and eccentric image as the focus – a grown-up, confident and classy move.
As Barnbrook says "When you're David Bowie, you don't need to shout".
"When you are someone like David Bowie, you don't need to shout." I completely agree. However, the hyperbole on the David section completely goes against this statement as does the length of the post. I can't work out if the text is meant to be taken seriously. The sentence "The Man Who Sold The World, was recorded as an entity in itself and marks the first definitive creative stretch for the listener" seems like a parody of rock hagiographies, and not what I'd describe as quiet.
There's some other bizarre flaws to the site, one being that when you click on Videos (unless you select a video instantly) you're greeted not with a Bowie song but by an extract of a song by the winning finalist from the X Factor (the Vevo ad that plays before the new Bowie song). Also, Shop takes you to the American itunes store, which shows no forethought to users outside the US.
The good news is, the new song is great, but the website is a real disappoint.
You're right - I'm extremely bitter about Barnbrook as a practitioner in our industry.
Firstly, having been to one of his lectures, he attempts to impress upon vulnerable student graphic designers that "money doesn't matter" and that we should all work for ethical companies i.e. not McDonalds or Coca Cola. When you're a bunch of beggars, you can't choose, and he shouldn't be influencing them on such matters at a fragile stage in the students' careers. If one was given the choice of working for McDonalds at the counter or as a graphic designer or starving to death in this tough economic time, I'm sure you would choose the graphic designer option. It's not up to him to preach to graphic designers. If he wants to preach, he should do it directly to the companies themselves.
I'm not sure working for music labels is the most ethical practice either *cough* tax havens.
Secondly, he previously held what I think is a contrived piece of political campaigning against a group of people. Now this said group of people was at this lecture. However, he went through his entire back catalogue of work from the 90s but brushed over that. Admittedly, I regret not bringing him up on it, but at the time, my career was as fragile as everyone else's in the room was. If I could go back now, I wish I could have done so. Funny that he brushed over it, isn't it?
I think these two cases demonstrate my moderated comment previously, I'm sure you can guess what it said.
As for anonymity, I reserve the right to privacy as much as you have the right to put security on to your Facebook account.
One more thing about this David Bowie website. There's little is any hierarchy to the typography and the leading is making it uncomfortable to read. There's such a thing as being understated and demure, and then there's boring and inaccessible 'design'.
Love the approach, the cover really works. The website doesn't feel complete somehow and agree with James, the copy works against the concept.
Visually it doesn't look bad but overall nothing great!
Love the single, love the website, praying for a tour. With a new album and tour from The Knife this year too, things are looking pretty good for 2013 so far.
A bit boring but an amazing body of work.