Story of the cover: Issue 199

Motherbird reveals its analog approach to a digital theme

In a new regular feature here on the Computer Arts Blog, we'll be bringing you the story behind the cover of the latest issue. Starting with issue 199, here's how Motherbird took our brief and created an amazing paper sculpture...

If you've seen issue 199's cover – and we hope you have by now – you may be surprised to know that the stunning image that adorns it isn't a render or Photoshop piece of work, it's entirely made of paper. Motherbird, an Australian agency founded in 2009 by Jack Mussett, Chris Murphy and Dan Evans were set the brief by Computer Arts Art Editor Jo Gulliver – and it called for a conceptual response to the theme of moving from print to digital.

The original rough sketch supplied to us by Motherbird

Chris Murphy at Motherbird explains: "Our concept was simple but required an intricate execution. We aimed to create an image that literally blurred the lines between a digital and tangible world. Something that looks, feels and smells digital but is in fact completely real and tactile - a hand made paper model." He continues: "We set out creating a paper 'digital iceberg' encased within code, a conceptual representation of creativity existing within digital space, an obstacle that must be conquered when transitioning into the digital world."

He goes on, explaining the cover process: "Starting life as an imposing stack of paper, the model was cut, folded, glued and assembled by hand. With the construction taking place in tandem with the refinement of the original concept the process remained extremely fluid, adapting and evolving as we progressed. Trial and error played a very important role within this development. We had a firm idea of the form the finished piece would take but the process was by no means set in stone. A fairly steep learning curve was undertaken to bring the idea to life with a number of problems solved along the way."

A key problem for Motherbird was to overcome the model's structural integrity. "The model was constructed in two halves and joined just before being precariously suspended and finally photographed," says Murphy. "This was an extremely nerve wracking moment, hoping that the model was structurally sound and wouldn’t collapse back into the stack of paper it started as. Luckily it didn’t!"

The model was constructed entirely from Spicers' Optix paper range in weights of 140, 200 and 300gsm. "It was an enormously fun process and a pleasure to see come to life," concludes Murphy.

Issue 199, showing you how to master digital design, is on sale in the UK now. Pick it up at WH Smith or online here.

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