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This optical illusion album art is still bending minds after 17 years

Album art can be graphic design heaven or graphic design hell. There are plenty of examples in the album cover hall of shame - but get it right, and you could have an all-time classic on your hands, like this one.

At first glance, the cover for Soulwax's 2005 album NY Excuse looks like a slightly migraine-inducing monochrome grid. But look a little closer - scratch that, look a little further away - and you might spot the name of both the artist and the album. Looking for more mind blowers? Check out our optical illusions roundup for more incredible examples.

Soulwax

See it yet? (Image credit: Trevor Jackson)

That's right, if you look very very carefully in the top left corner, you might be able to work out the name 'Soulwax' and the title of the album 'NY Excuse'. Even though we first saw this optical illusion album art a while ago, we still can't quite believe that words are hiding in plain sight. 

Internet users have been loving the cover, designed by multi-disciplinary creative Trevor Jackson (opens in new tab), since 2005 – and especially the way it highlights the difference between physical and digital media. With the vinyl cover, your only option will be to step away from it to view those words. But all you have to do with the digital version is zoom out - or, if you're viewing it on your phone, you might even be able to see it straight away on the tiny thumbnail.

Fans on Reddit (opens in new tab) questioned how the effect was achieved, with Kraenerlus (opens in new tab) suggesting that "the white squares inside the text zones are smaller than the outside ones so the black lines are thicker". This was backed up by KingKopaTroopa (opens in new tab), who confirmed that they have "achieved this by doing 2 different halftone sizes, then simply mask one over the other (using type as the mask)". 

This is by no means the first - or indeed oldest - optical illusion album art we've seen in recent months. Just last week the internet went wild for Paula Scher's design for 1970s rock band Boston with its upside-down UFO guitars (it makes sense when you see it).

And let's not forget, creating an iconic album cover isn't easy. From Lana Del Rey's disastrous recent attempt to Drake's baffling collaboration with Damien Hirst, we've seen some shockers in the last few months alone. Fancy designing a cover of your own? Check out our guide on how to download Photoshop

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Daniel Piper
Senior News Editor

Daniel Piper is Creative Bloq’s Senior News Editor. As the brand’s Apple authority, he covers all things Mac, iPhone, iPad and the rest. He also reports on the worlds of design, branding and tech. Daniel joined Future in 2020 (an eventful year, to say the least) after working in copywriting and digital marketing with brands including ITV, NBC, Channel 4 and more. Outside of Future, Daniel is a global poetry slam champion and has performed at festivals including Latitude, Bestival and more. He is the author of Arbitrary and Unnecessary: The Selected Works of Daniel Piper (Selected by Daniel Piper).

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