Poetry for the Beat Generation


Develop a custom, limited edition packaging solution for the music recording of your choice. Include the original liner notes and augment as necessary. The entire design must be exclusively typographic; no photography. 


JACK KEROUAC & STEVE ALLEN: POETRY FOR THE BEAT GENERATION is a limited edition, 3-LP vinyl boxset of poet Jack Kerouac's infamous 1959 collaboration with entertainer Steve Allen.

Identity + Mark  |  Illustration  |  Packaging|  Editorial Design + Layout  |  Copy Writing + Editing


Given the constraints of the project brief—all type—it seemed an interesting challenge to pick a spoken word release. What would poetry feel like, and moreover, beat poetry? I’ve been a Kerouac fan for years, yet this album in which he recited his work accompanied by mainstream entertainer and pianist Steve Allen always felt like an anomaly. Who put these two together? When I read about the recording sessions, I learned that Jack showed up, leather attaché in hand stuffed with hastily typewritten poems, and read completely at random. I derived my packaging solution from this single image. 

Because few music fans purchase LPs in the digital age besides collectors, from the outset I knew that the overall presentation had to be not only unique but covetable in its own right. The package includes three 12 inch records on 180 gram vinyl and a handsome liner notebook. 

To visualize the swimmingly improvisational style of Jack’s delivery, I photocopied the pieces he read in the sessions and then took various enlargements and swirled them around on the copier glass to create distorted, warped compositions that became the basis for the LP covers.

The liner notes took the format of a small memo pad--the kind that Kerouac was known for keeping in his pocket. Because Jack typed on large rolls of thin, translucent onion paper, I used vellum to create a sense of layers within the booklet. 


My lead inspiration for this project was renowned Blue Note Records designer Reid Miles. Throughout his tenure at the company, Miles used sans and slab faces (often extended) such as Venus and Rockwell that were common during the 1950s and 1960s. I was particularly taken with his cover design for Dexter Gordon’s GO. It’s bold, simple and it packs a punch. I combined the Trade Gothic Extended he chose for that LP with the distressed typewriter of Blokland’s Trixie to suggest Kerouac’s famed, frenzied, benzedrene-fueled late-night writing sessions. 


I gave each of the three LPs their own exclusive hue, and then combined them together for use in the liner notes. As with the Stoned in the Sixties project, I took each and reduced the saturation for a period look. After printing the project on a brighter stock, I felt that natural white was a better fit for the worn leather attaché case that houses the LPs.