44. METALLICA Part 4 – ‘THE BIG 4’


Well that’s a bit weird. How many 4’s can there be in one blog title? Well … 4 actually! …

Some of you may have missed the short Blog 43 …METALLICAInterlude‘ – Check it out below.

You’d get the impression from blogs on ‘LIVE SHIT‘ and ‘GARAGE Inc.’ that ALL METALLICA projects are difficult, challenging and complicated wouldn’t you? Well – you’d be right – as you’ll see as we move onto ‘THE BIG 4‘ …

and it’s multiple (ever-expanding!) components needed for the Box Set as well as the more conventional formats.

Each METALLICA project is completely different on so many levels. That ultimately is what makes it interesting work for me – it’s NEVER predictable and for a designer that’s all I ask. Sometimes it can take weeks to develop a final cover, sometimes it’s clear-cut from the beginning but difficult to make all elements work, sometimes several series of roughs are needed before final approval, and occasionally  a clear direction is established from the start and things progress incredibly smoothly. Thankfully, given the insane deadlines for completion and the fact I’d just moved home and studio to Brighton on England’s south coast …

– ‘THE BIG 4” fell into the last category.

Deadlines …

… are always an issue. Always. Very few people realise how much is involved in terms of sheer volume of the artwork required and how long it can take. The picture at the beginning of the blog gives you some idea of artworks for ‘THE BIG 4‘ – though less than half of what was needed overall. After a call from Marc at Q Prime offering me the project I headed up to EMI to discuss the project and to gather the information I needed. Unusually there were FOUR bands involved and that sent shivers down my spine – potentially 17 different people (and that’s just the bands!) to approve artwork. METALLICA I had obviously worked with many times and knew I had their trust – but three more bands I’d never dealt with and their management companies?! It was an enormous relief to hear that the final say on artwork approval was with the people I knew best.

The project was initially very simple,” said Archie. “Here we go,” I thought. The meeting was on a Thursday if I remember correctly. ” … and deadlines are … ?” I asked tentatively. “In 10 days … August 2nd.” Well I had to laugh. We both knew that practically it was impossible on every level but there was pressure on both of us to deliver. It would take 10 days to get everything approved once it was all finished. “I’ll have to work out a schedule,” I said, “but I have to say – it’s almost impossible to create one when it’s still unclear exactly how many formats there are and how many elements I need to produce.”

I’d been there many times before. To give you an idea of how deadlines for artwork are established – it’s simply and obviously – by working backwards from the release date set by manufacturing deadlines. Usually, production and distribution of a CD or DVD takes six weeks – much longer if multiple formats as complicated as ‘THE BIG 4” are involved. After due consideration and attempting to establish exactly what the work involved I sent an e-mail which listed the items …

“Outer Box (main Generic cover design 1)
4-Panel Digipak (main Generic cover design 1)
DVD Disc One: Metallica and Documentary
DVD Disc Two: Anthrax/Megadeth/Slayer
Gatefold double Wallet (cover design 2)
CD Disc One: Metallica
CD Disc Two: Metallica
Single Wallet 1: Slayer (cover design 3)
CD Three: Slayer
Single Wallet 2: Megadeth (cover design 4)
CD Four: Megadeth
Single Wallet 3: Anthrax (cover design 5)
CD Five: Anthrax
24-page deluxe Booklet
Festival Poster Sonisphere – double-sided
4 individual photos of each band on Stage
Guitar pick
Sticker – Box/Case Cover”

You get the idea … and that’s WITHOUT the standard DVD packaging and Bluray. The e-mail also included the following …

“Is it possible? …
Assuming … I have all the approved copy, the supplied artworks/logos/approved photos, all grids, format specs, technical information etc, and given a standard 40-hour week to complete all elements by August 2nd – I have, on average, 53 minutes and 20 seconds to complete each of the 45 items. I fully understand I will have to do at least double those hours but … is it feasible … perhaps not.”

So … promising to give it my best shot, ‘THE BIG 4‘ began in earnest. Starting with the very basics – this was the first serious design problem …

Four logos in roughly the same style? – I don’t think so.

I often have to find a unifying theme or device to hold a number of disparate elements together – these four elements were a real challenge. I messed around (I love messing around) with paper, pens, knives, scissors and a variety of art equipment and design tools (not a computer in sight notice) and eventually, with the use of a scalpel and wet, exposed photographic paper, spontaneity produced something I knew I could work with. It was simple (often the best solutions are), edgy (appropriate for the nature of the project) and, very importantly – impulsive and uncontrived. Here’s a section of it …

I developed the texture, re-created the four logos using it and had immediate band approval. Great start.

I wish METALLICA fans could see a lot of the work that wasn’t approved for Met’s CD’s or DVD’s. It’s not necessarily of inferior quality – just the designs are not chosen as the final ones. Very often, with many bands or artists a handful of ideas are chosen to develop – not just one – and obviously I like all of them or I wouldn’t have presented them in the first place. I’ve been offered an exhibition in London in the autumn to showcase many original METALLICA artworks, maybe I’ll include some of ‘the ones that got away‘. In the meantime, on the airfix web very soon – a couple of METALLICA things you’ve never seen will appear. Next time.

Having established a strong beginning to ‘THE BIG 4‘ project we can go into more of it next time in …
METALLICA Part 4b – ‘More on THE BIG 4’
To be posted March 31st

… and finally for this post – for those of you who missed this gem on Britain’s ‘RED NOSE DAY – Comic Relief’ fund-raiser last Friday (an astounding £73,300,000+ was raised by the British public) check this out … or watch again … important to watch it all and to contribute if you haven’t already … saving lives in Africa.


5 Responses to “44. METALLICA Part 4 – ‘THE BIG 4’”

  1. Rhonda Henry Says:

    I dug Metallca and your graphc rocks I have a bs degree n art

  2. Ronald Prado Says:

    Nice the heavy metal.

  3. Tony Opal Says:

    Love the logo concept.
    Can’t wait to see ‘the ones that got away’.

  4. Dan Says:

    Great stuff. I already have the “Big 4” CD set from Sofia. But just based on what I read here, I’ll have to get the new one if only for the amazing graphic design. Can’t wait!

  5. victor hugo Says:

    ………………and metallica for all

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