Murmurations - unique CD packaging

Thanks to digital printing, every fan of The Shee will get an individually designed cover image when they purchase the band's latest album

Murmuration - it's one of those unique English words that refers to one thing specifically. A murmuration is a the collective noun for a flock of starlings, and is often used to describe the amazing visual effect created by thousands of the birds in flight together. They swoop, dip, join together in shapes then dissipate in wave after mesmerising wave.

Murmuration is also the name of the new album by the folk band The Shee, and designer Lillias Kinsman-Blake has designed CD packaging for the release that is inspired by this natural phenomenon.

In fact, every copy of the album is itself unique. All 2000 of the CDs they've shipped have different patterns of starlings in flight on their covers. "The conventional method for CD covers is lithographic printing but the flexibility of digital printing made it feasible for each cover to be different," says Kinsman-Blake.

"The layout and design of the CD stayed the same but I saved 2000 individual JPEG files of the starlings in flight, which I then listed in a spreadsheet. The printer was set up to input a different image of the flight of the starlings for each cover printed."

Illustrative influences

Lillias Kinsman-Blake is also a member of the band, and the inspiration for the title Murmurations, as well as the artwork, comes directly out of the music they play. Their style draws on Scottish and English musical influences, Gaelic traditions as well as Bluegrass.

These influences and the tastes of the individual members of the band draw the sound in different directions, a little like a flock of starlings at play. So the visual metaphor is continued on the album's cover. "I also felt that the music on this album is very honest, and I felt that this could be best expressed through the depiction of nature," she adds.

Creating 2000 individual images was a mammoth task, and to achieve the range of covers the designer enlisted the help of her family. "My sister Linda created the individual starling mono prints which I then scanned into the computer and manipulated in Photoshop. I wanted each print to have a handmade input so every formation was created by hand. There was a fast turn around for this project, so with a short Photoshop tutorial from myself, my sister and my mum helped create roughly 500 of the 2000 designs and I created the remaining 1500," she says.

CD packaging

Finally there was the CD box. Kinsman-Blake came up with a design that doesn't use any glue, plastic or excess packaging. The project was supported by paper merchant GF Smith, with Colorplan Stone 350gsm stock used, and the printing was done by FE Burman in London.