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Secret 7" 2014: Meet the designers behind the sleeves

Tapping into the seemingly unshakable love affair between graphic designers and the music industry, Secret 7" (opens in new tab) has taken off dramatically in the years since its launch in 2011.

Organised by a small creative team called Goodness (opens in new tab), masterminded and headed up by Kevin King, Secret 7" is a charity project that sees hundreds of designers anonymously designing record sleeves for one of seven tracks. Anyone is then able to purchase any sleeve for at £45 each. The catch? Buyers don't know whose design they've bought until after they've parted with their cash.

This year's event - which raised money for War Child (opens in new tab) - was a roaring success. Now the dust has settled on the buying frenzy, we got in touch with some of the names behind the sleeves, to find out what inspired their designs.

Neil Bowen from Zip Design: Age of Reason, Black Sabbath

Why did you pick this track?

Zip created all of the artwork for the '13' album (opens in new tab) which the track is taken from and I wanted to make sure we'd made something for Secret 7" that tied with this fact. For the commercial album artwork we commissioned a sculptor to make a giant wicker '13', we then photographed this being burnt in the English countryside, as if part of an occult ritual.

Tell us a bit about your design and how you created it…

Rather than make a 'perfect' digital piece of artwork I thought it would be great to make something really one-off, so that a Sabbath fan would feel like they owned a piece of official Sabbath history. My typographic sleeves were made using some of the actual ash and charcoal from the wicker '13' we burnt. I also included a tiny vial with more ash remains in as an added bonus item. Just thought it would be a nice surprise for the new owners of the artwork. I was really pleased it was for War Child this year as they do some fantastic work. I love what they have achieved at Secret 7" and I'm very proud to be a tiny part of it.

Jules Julien: Strange Creatures, Jake Bugg

Why did you pick that particular song?

I didn't know Jake Bugg before - I discovered him participating in Secret 7". His song was my favourite. The lyrics, which are a bit dark and introspective, match very well with the simplicity of the track, which is just a voice and the guitar.

What was it about the song that inspired you to create this design?

I have tried to summarise Jake's song with the same simplicity. A hand, that could be his hand, with the tip of fingers dark. It's as if, playing the guitar for Strange Creatures, Jake Bugg got his fingers dirty.

Jason Holroyd: Get it On, T-Rex

How did you create your sleeve?

The design was hand-drawn and then scanned. I used the Pen tool in Illustrator to create a vector version which was then laser cut, and the outside edge was engraved to keep the piece within the sleeve.

What inspired your design?

The song is so iconic, when I hear it I instantly recall watching re-runs of Top Of The Pops and seeing Bolan shimmering away on stage, and the fashion of it all. So, the idea was to illustrate Marc Bolan's shoes with the hint being to 'get it on' (as in wear them).

I found some really glam, glittery stock that slotted inside the sleeve which acted as an apt background and lifted the illustration somewhat. The glittery insert also had a small piece of laser cut type ('dirty sweet') hidden away at the edge to act as a further clue. So in a nutshell I guess it's a nod back to the glam-rock fashion of the 70s that Bolan wore so well!

Hannah Horn: Strange Creatures, Jake Bugg

Why did you choose this particular song?

My illustrations are based around fantasy, mythology and fairytale, so the 'Strange Creatures' song really stood out to me. Firstly because of the title, which gave the inspiration for the goblin-like creatures in the bottom left-hand corner of the sleeve, and secondly there is a lyric: "I'm in a nightmare, not a thing can set me free". This lyric started me thinking about Greek mythology, and in particular Melinoe who was the goddess of nightmares and ghosts. That is the woman in my illustration.

Tell us a bit about how you created it...

I also drew a lot on my fashion illustration background for inspiration for the style of the art work. I started by sketching out different compositions for the sleeve, then once I found one that worked, I hand-drew it onto the sleeve. I used an Isograph pen with a 0.1mm nib and silver metallic acrylic paint for the stars.

Stanley Chow: Karmacoma, Massive Attack

Why did you choose this song?

I picked that track because of the listed tracks that were given, that was the record I actually bought when it first came out. I was a big fan that tune.

What inspired your design?

The lyrics. I'm not entirely sure what the lyrics meant, but to me I could only imagine that it was about smoking recreational drugs, so it gave me an opportunity to create something slightly psychedelic.

To find out more, read our full event report on Secret 7" 2014 in Computer Arts issue 228, on sale May 29.

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Ruth spent a couple of years as Deputy Editor of Creative Bloq, and has also either worked on or written for almost all of the site's former and current print titles, from Computer Arts to ImagineFX. She now spends her days reviewing mattresses and hiking boots as the Outdoors and Wellness editor at, but continues to write about design on a freelance basis in her spare time.