Journey: A design exploration with Natalie Hanke

We released our first solo record today. Journey by AKANE is available now on our store, and will be available shortly on iTunes, Amazon, Google, and other services. You can listen to the entire album as many times as you like before buying it — so go ahead!

We had a tough deadline for producing the album, as we wanted to debut it at EGX (Eurogamer's expo in London) on September 25th, and also have it ready for AKANE's live show on September 29th. We realized later in the production that we wouldn't be able to design the album internally, and I had to find a solution pretty quick as the deadline loomed over our heads. Enter, Natalie Hanke.

I came across Natalie's work when both Cory Schmitz and Paul Veer recommended her to me. I loved what she did with Distance and decided she's the right choice for the style and aesthetics of AKANE. I especially loved her emphasis on clean and minimal design, often type-based and bold.

This is the first concept that Natalie made, which remains a personal favorite of mine:

Kobayashi-san and Takahashi-san thought it was a bit too clean, as AKANE, to them, is imperfect and chaotic. Going from that, Natalie experimented with new designs accordingly:

With a few interesting choices:

And liberations:

That's a lot of design that we had to wade through. The AKANE girls liked where Natalie went with the organic flower look, and wanted further exploration of the first cover. Natalie worked more, bringing a mix of hydrangea and sasanqua flowers:

Then upon further examination, Natalie decided it was better if both front- and back-covers were inverted-looking, as the contrast between orange (on the disc, and booklet pages) and pink would be just right. This resulted in the following backgrounds:

And there you have it:

The delicate mix of orange, pink, and black throughout the physical package looks pleasing to the eye and really gorgeous. We wrapped the whole design process in less than a month, which is a great achievement, and a testament to Natalie's craftsmanship under such tension and pressure. Having to communicate in Japanese to the AKANE ladies and then bringing that back to Natalie (and vice versa), I'm surprised at how fast we were able to finish the project.

I decided it would be better to differentiate between the physical and digital editions, thus giving a crimson/orange finish to the digital version and leaving the physical package with its unique pink outlook.

I'm proud of Brave Wave's first solo record, and I hope you'll end up enjoying it more after this brief talk about its design and designer. Head over to the store, play the album, and enjoy this unique neo-folklore sound from the heart of Tokyo.