If you’ve ever picked up an Australian hip hop album, chances are, you’ve been staring at one of April 77‘s designs.
Nestled away in Sydney’s Inner West, Ben Funnell and his team at April 77 have produced some of the hip hop scene’s, and undoubtedly the Australian music scene’s, most intriguing album deigns over the last decade.
We caught up with Ben Funnell to discuss the April 77 studio, and the designs that have entrenched the studio as one of the best graphic design firms in the country:
Firstly, can you give us a run down on April77 Creative and what services you offer?
April77 Creative is an experienced, full-service creative studio located in Sydney’s Inner West. We offer design solutions over an extensive range of disciplines including: branding/logo design, print communications, web design and environmental graphics. Late last year we released a book collecting some of the album covers we have designed over the past decade. Its a snapshot of some of the work we do and was a real labour of love to put together, but we’re really proud of the end result and the awesome feedback we have received.
Who falls under the April77 Creative banner in terms of the creative team? When and where did April77 Creative first start? What inspired you to start the design studio?
The current April77 team comprises of my wife Nerrida and myself, along with designers Holly and Soth. Nerrida and I were both born in April 1977 hence the name. We met while working at the same design studio and by way of a working visa in Toronto, Canada we moved to Sydney and started April77 as a full-time operation. For the first couple of years it was basically just me working on album covers and websites from home but eventually we got so busy with other work Nerrida had to come on board as well. We then moved into a studio space and have grown the team further from there over the last 12 years.
What clients do you currently have on your roster? What past clients have you had?
We have a broad client base ranging from contemporary to corporate. A few of our clients past and present include: Universal Records, Obese Records, Golden Era Records, Elefant Traks, Hilltop Hoods, Bliss n Eso, Tripod Entertainment, Toby Dixon Photography, MTN Australia, Grindin, Nathan Farrell Entertainment, Niche Productions, Illusive Entertainment, Adhesive PR, Organic Response, Dixon Advisory, Coulston Group and Oscars Hotels.
Who inspired you to make a career out of graphic design?
I have always been into artwork, record covers, comics and design, but I used to have a phobia of computers. After high school I went to get my Associate Diploma of Fine Art at Penrith Tafe, and my painting teacher (an incredible artist from the Blue Mountains named Stephen Crisdale) also taught the design class at Tafe and introduced me to Photoshop. That’s what lead me down the path to becoming a graphic designer. Influences on the work I do these days would include Reid Miles, Eric Haze, Cey Adams, George Dubose, Chuck D, Jeff Jank, Brent Rollins, Donda, Drawing Board Design, Guy Featherstone, Burn Crew, Mexi and many more.
What advice would you give to those looking to pursue a career in graphic design?
Love what you do, it will make the deadlines easier to manage. Look for inspiration outside of the regular design blogs/resources. Have a good stereo in your office/workspace. Buy and listen to vinyl.
YOUR TOP 5 ALBUM COVERS TO COME OUT OF APRIL77 CREATIVE
Thundamentals: So We Can Remember
We’ve worked on all of Thundamentals release campaigns since their first EP, however this was the first time we were given complete control over the artwork style and direction. Thundas provided a great brief and some images for inspiration to riff off the theme of the album title. There’s a lot of ideas and references in there that are open to interpretation, but I think it captures the vibe of the record well and its one of my favourite jobs we’ve worked on for sure.
Dialectrix – The Cold Light Of Day
I was familiar with a lot of the things Dialectrix was venting about on the record already as he’s a good mate of mine. Its a very personal and honest album and to me that’s what good rap is about – expressing real life and doing it with skill. The cover had to reflect that in an emotive way. We did all the photography for this job as well so really orchestrated the whole visual theme.
OBESECITY 2: Obese Records Compilation
We won an award on ozhiphop.com
for this artwork. The first Obesecity compilation has a great cover design by Mexi who is a good mate, so the pressure was on to produce something of a similar standard. We also made this artwork into a limited edition screen printed poster with the help of Sydney based screen printers Aisle6ix.
Mantra: Telling Scenes
Mantra gave us the photo of the kid in the soldiers outfit standing in his school playground, which was already an incredible image. We had to chop him out of the playground background and insert him into a desolate, smokey war torn environment. I think the results are really powerful and avoid being cliche – this cover could be for a rock or heavy metal album easily I think. Its just a strong image that has some mystery about it and is quite emotive.
Tuka: Feedback Loop
This was a really open brief, but had to be something different to suit the sound of the album which is fairly non traditional in a Hip Hop sense. Tuk threw a bunch of ideas at us, the Ninja, the serpent, illuminati references etc and this is what we came up with. This was really well received and was a style I hadn’t really tried before at the time so was a lot of fun.