CR Blog

The King of Limbs Newspaper Album by Stanley Donwood

Art, Graphic Design

Posted by Eliza Williams, 27 April 2011, 19:00    Permalink    Comments (55)

Earlier today, Stanley Donwood gave CR a first glimpse of the special 'newspaper edition' he has created for Radiohead's latest album, The King of Limbs.

The artwork is designed in the guise of a Sunday newspaper, complete with plastic packaging printed with the album name and imagery. It contains two 10-inch clear vinyl records in a sleeve, a CD of the album, a perforated blotting-sheet artwork, and a newspaper containing art and texts by Donwood.

The newspaper was printed in the US, and uses a standard US newspaper format, which conveniently folds down to approximately album size. The initial idea behind the artwork was to turn away from the elaborate packaging Donwood used for the band's last album, In Rainbows. "In Rainbows was a great big, solid cardboard thing, if you were determined you could probably kill somebody with it, it was very heavy, and almost like a definitive statement," he explains.

By contrast, Donwood and the band wanted the King of Limbs artwork to express something less conclusive. "It's not like the news stops when a newspaper comes out," he continues. "It's just 'this is what's happening today'. So this is released into the world on this day, and this is where this band are right now... it is a continuing thing."

The album artwork is released following the free giveaway by Donwood and Radiohead of the newspaper The Universal Sigh, which was recently conducted all over the world. The King of Limbs paper is a larger and more elaborate offering than The Universal Sigh, though contains some of the same texts and artworks. The newspaper giveaway was inspired by Donwood witnessing the free paper mayhem that often takes place on the London Underground. "It was the biggest art project I'd ever engineered really," he says. "To persuade a lot of people that doing it was a good idea in the first place, and then following it up and making sure that it happened. I think it happened in 61 cities around the world in roughly the same 24-hour period."

Donwood is drawn to the throwaway nature of papers. "Newspapers are eminently disposable," he continues. "Every newspaper is at least 30% a newspaper that's been before, they're 30% recycled... They will fall apart very, very quickly, unlike a Kindle or an iPad that's going to end up on the shores of some subcontinent somewhere. They're almost harmless things to me. And I love the heritage of them, and what newspapers have done to change the world from being a really class-based, almost feudal system to people being able to get information cheaply."

Donwood is conscious, however, that fans are likely to cherish the packaging, despite its ephemeral nature, and also enjoys the idea of it being something that might be protected and well looked-after. He was in part inspired to make the works after discovering a box of old copies of Oz and other 60s radical newspapers that was left, unacknowledged, on Radiohead's Colin Greenwood's doorstep. "They were printed really cheaply and in a real hurry," he says of the discovery, "and they were sort of decaying, they'd lost their corners. You had to open them quite carefully... they'd become this archive that doesn't exist anywhere else, it's not on the internet. So all of these flyers and newspapers and fanzines had acquired a value. Because they rot and they fall to bits, they'd acquired a value that they wouldn't have had. And it was really interesting to read something that was meant for the moment, but had been looked after."

The 60s link continues in the blotting-paper artwork Donwood has created, which could be seen as a large sheet of LSD tabs. "I wouldn't like to push any of those associations," Donwood says coyly, before going on to muse on the idea of someone turning the innocent sheet into the drug. "In theory, not that I would propose such an illegal thing, but somebody could...," he says. "And I don't think that's been done as a marketing thing before."

The humble nature of the artwork for The King of Limbs flies somewhat in the face of the overly elaborate record packaging that has been in fashion of late, particularly for album reissues (this topic was recently covered by Gavin Lucas on the CR blog, here). "It's gone into this almost King James Bible sort of thing," says Donwood of the products. "Where the music is elevated by the packaging into something almost spiritual, almost holy... I wanted to get away from that thing where you elevate the music into something it isn't. Because it's just something you hear, it's in your head. [Previously], the technology to record music has driven what the packaging is, but now that's no longer relevant, you don't really have to have the music in packaging at all. You could just make a whole bunch of art, and if you buy the music, you might want to buy the art."

Donwood has a particularly aversion to CDs and CD packaging, which explains why, of the King of Limbs pack, the CD design is a touch underwhelming compared to the rest of the contents. "If it could have been any worse, it would have been," he says. "There were difficulties with making it any worse. The original idea was to put 'X Format' on it and nothing else. Because I've hated them ever since I started doing record cover designs." The vinyl cover sleeve, by contrast, is beautifully designed, featuring details from a series of oil paintings that Donwood worked on while the band was creating the album.

The newspaper element of the packaging was designed by Donwood, alongside "a certain band member", presumably Thom Yorke. It features fonts scanned from 1930s Depression-era American newspapers, which were compiled by Andrew Leman, of the H P Lovecraft Historical Society of America. "So they're all old fonts in there from the American Depression, the worldwide Depression - the last one, before the one we're apparently in, or hovering around, or are about to enter, or have just left, or whatever it is," says Donwood. "I wanted to make it look old-fashioned rather than like a new graphic-designed, minimal thing."

The King of Limbs Newspaper Album will be shipped to those who've already ordered it on May 9. It costs £30 and can still be purchased online here.

CR's current issue is The Annual, our biggest issue of the year featuring an additional 100 pages of the best work of the past 12 months. If you would like to buy this issue and are based in the UK, you can search for your nearest stockist here. Based outside the UK? Simply call +44(0)207 292 3703 to find your nearest stockist. Better yet, subscribe to CR for a year here and save yourself almost 30% on the printed magazine. If you subscribe before Wednesday April 27 you will receive the May issue/Annual as part of your subscription.

55 Comments

Maybe since Stanley Donwood has such an affinity for things that degrade and disappear maybe he too will soon disappear and quit inflicting stupid ideas such as newspapers and blotter paper on Radiohead fans
Matt Weeks
2011-04-27 20:10:06


"Every newspaper is at least 30% a newspaper that's been before, they're 30% recycled... They will fall apart very, very quickly, unlike a Kindle or an iPad that's going to end up on the shores of some subcontinent somewhere."

What are you talking about? Sending out a million pointless newspapers with an album is WAY more environmentally damaging then sending it out digitally on Kindles.

AND

People recycle Ipads and Kindles and Phones and Computers. You act like people just chuck their ipads in a ditch when they are through. How Idiotic! The oceanic trash problem is from plastic trash that floats. Wow!
C.Huey
2011-04-27 23:08:23


That's not very nice Matt.
J
2011-04-27 23:26:18


oh stanley,
you've done it again.
c
cate
2011-04-27 23:26:48


I think im going to be very disapointed with the lack of second cd and almost feel robbed. Im never paying for a radiohead album again
Bollox
2011-04-27 23:37:25


i dont see how THIS should be considered as a 'first news paper album'. it looks like radiohead's new album with genuine artwork.... with booklet shaped as a folded newspaper -- instead of a Box (like with InR in 2007)
qwerrie
2011-04-27 23:55:28


and maybe Matt Weeks can (deleted by moderator).
Tom
2011-04-28 00:11:00


Honestly, 'Matt'
how very rude
Dan
2011-04-28 00:13:11


To comment one, Ouch!
Jean D.
2011-04-28 00:25:36


Hi !! I have added link on my curator blog

Thanks

Lady Newell & Friends Guest Curator WASTECENTRAL RADIOHEAD Official Website

http://www.waste-central.com/profiles/blogs/the-king-of-limbs-the
Lady Newell & Friends
2011-04-28 01:43:26


i hate that i live in america. i want the newpaper album already, it looks amazing. i heard that there are two new songs on it, other than supercollider and the butcher. any truth to that?
Darian Stahl
2011-04-28 02:23:13


stupid is relative
stupidisrelative
2011-04-28 02:24:34


good one Matt ;) haha
sara scharaf
2011-04-28 07:04:13


@Matt: That seems a bit harsh. Donwood has been doing the Radiohead artwork for years; it's part of who they are, is their visual aesthetic, and is, in many people's opinions including my own, quite wonderful. The newspaper album is a collectors item of great music and art. If you only want the music, don't buy the newspaper album. It's that simple. I'm happy knowing that I follow a band that is interested in collectors items and artwork such as this to accompany their music. It makes their music greater than the sum of its parts, which is already great.
IntheBellyofaWhale
2011-04-28 07:13:54


Nice.
Has anyone tried swallowing one of the squares of blotter paper?
Brett
2011-04-28 08:10:50


I get it. This album is a "what's happening today" like the concept behind a newspaper. The news doesn't stop, nor does the music. RH did not want to make a "definitive statement" on music perhaps the ways the album as a medium seemed to foster. They even said making another album would kill them. And I would argue that this album is different from their other albums... probably the least definitive of the lot. I would look at In Rainbows as a definitive album, from the scope of the packaging, the diverse sounds, the lyrics... IMO, IR is an album that will stand the test of time. In a way, it had to be, because it was their first release after the whole EMI period. But seeing the apparent toll it took on the band, perhaps we can all agree that RH are still evolving, still figuring out what they want to do next, still experimenting with how to put out a record in today's landscape, and still aiming for brilliantly executed stuff. It may not be an In Rainbows, but it is where RH are today, and a great indication of where they can go...
Warren
2011-04-28 08:46:09


Looks nice. Boris' album Pink has sheets of perforated blotter paper with the artwork though.
Marc
2011-04-28 09:10:35


I disagree, What with the ever increasing use of downloading mp3's I think its a great idea to see a band come up with something different to engage and reward their fans!
Paul Sanders
2011-04-28 09:54:06


^^^
This seems like a fairly idiotic comment to me.

As a music fan and graphic designer I can't honestly think of a more successful music branding exercise. I would challenge anyone to explain why such a consistent, yet fluidly creative visual style does not inherently add to the perception of Radiohead as a brand.

Plus, in an age when music packaging has been reduced down to a 50px square thumbnail, it's people like Donwood and Radiohead, experimenting with how you package, market and sell music to a loyal fanbase that ensures the industry moves forward and adapts. And long may they continue.

I'd advise you to turn your itunes off shuffle and remember why we do this. But that's just my opinion.
Matt Smith
2011-04-28 10:05:47


We can't wait to have this beautiful project on aour office / Living room. We completely agree with Matt Smith
badinicreateam
2011-04-28 10:18:57


@Darian, yes you get two free tracks to download on top of the full album if you buy it as a 'thank you' - the two tracks were recently released as a 12" for record day here in UK

Personally I think Stanley Donwood is the perfect artistic foil to Radiohead. Provocative and thought-provoking and definitely not for everyone. This thread confirms he continues to deliver.
Freddie B
2011-04-28 10:22:58


I think you're all missing the real issue here. How are we honestly meant to enjoy Radiohead's new album, knowing that there is a apostrophe missing in ‘Dont blow your mind with why'?!

I don't care how abstract your soundscapes or, or revolutionary your distribution and pricing, Radiohead. You are not exempt from the laws of civility, humanity and proper grammar!
Grogger
2011-04-28 10:32:10


i love things.
apol
2011-04-28 10:48:32


It looks great and I can't wait to receive it!
Stanley and Radiohead did a superb job.
Mieke
2011-04-28 11:09:34


Mieke - i'm with you. Looks great - really looking forward to getting my paws on it.

James
James
2011-04-28 11:43:52


I have just ordered mine, they look great so can't wait for it to arrive.
Perforated Sheet
2011-04-28 11:45:27


I've tried to fight it, but that's £30 of my hard earned cash coming Radioheads way.

In my college/art school days I viewed Stanley Donwood's Radiohead work as one of the benchmarks in terms of quality, notoriety, and mass audience... this opinion has never changed. I love the relationship between Donwood & Radiohead, they compliment each other perfectly - long may it continue, i'll always here ready and waiting to part with more money.
Ian C
2011-04-28 12:37:56


HEY Grogger! Proper grammar? You are talking about THOM YORKE! have you ever payed attention to his writting? He does not give a singke fuck about grammar, he does as he wants and that's it! And we love him for that.

BTW, The King Of Limbs is stunning. A great album with the best artwork since Amnesiac.
Luke
2011-04-28 13:08:38


Donwood says coyly, before going on to muse on the idea of someone turning the innocent sheet into the drug. "In theory, not that I would propose such an illegal thing, but somebody could...," he says. "And I don't think that's been done as a marketing thing before."

Plastikman - Sheet One (1993)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheet_One_(album)
Winston Smith
2011-04-28 13:52:04


@ Marc
@ Winston Smith

I don't think Stanley is intending to imply that no-one has used blotting-sheets as a marketing tool before, but that no-one has used acid-dipped blotting-sheets for marketing purposes...
CR ElizaWilliams
2011-04-28 14:17:56


Can you get off your face on LCD?
Chris
2011-04-28 14:45:17


This is what graphics is all about.

Long live vinyl!
Mark
2011-04-28 14:50:25


I love radiohead and i love stanley donwood ... so this is a win/win....
GEORGE VRANJKOVIC
2011-04-28 15:14:12


Matt weeks sounds like a very jealous, little man...
GEORGE VRANJKOVIC
2011-04-28 15:18:55


Astonishing art in this work...I adore it!
Pickle Design
2011-04-28 15:35:44


Thanks for posting this Eliza, some nice artwork!
graphic designers
2011-04-28 17:07:10


@ Chris

Haha - good spot! Have changed now.
CR ElizaWilliams
2011-04-28 17:14:05


These pieces of art are beautifull as always i would say
i can't wait to see/watch/listen/enjoy/trip with my copy of it (hope it'll come quick now!!!)
British are lucky

also,
some of the comments here are quite harsh and not justified, Stanley Donwood IS brilliant
like it or not
he's an artist, and that's what it is all about here : ART

Long live Radiohead
Long live Stanley Donwood
cicitizen insane
2011-04-28 18:33:21


@Matt: That seems a bit harsh. Donwood has been doing the Radiohead artwork for years; it's part of who they are, is their visual aesthetic, and is, in many people's opinions including my own, quite wonderful. The newspaper album is a collectors item of great music and art. If you only want the music, don't buy the newspaper album. It's that simple. I'm happy knowing that I follow a band that is interested in collectors items and artwork such as this to accompany their music. It makes their music greater than the sum of its parts, which is already great.
IntheBellyofaWhale
2011-04-28 20:10:05


There was a Platikman cd that came with a sheet of 'LSD' tab paper, printed and serrated- for the album Sheet one.
simon clark
2011-04-29 00:06:49


If you can't appreciate this beautiful object, maybe there's something wrong with your mind and soul. Like Matt Smith said before: "that's just my opinion". Another fantastic piece by Donwood and RH.
Abraham Morales
2011-04-29 01:41:01


Absolutely amazing!
K&i Design Studio
2011-04-29 07:47:16


@Eliza

Rumour has it Hawtin distributed several promo copies of Sheet One that actually did contain acid-soaked blotter paper.
Justin
2011-04-29 12:22:41


Isn't his 'I hate CDs so I refuse to put any effort into their design' stance a little bit teenage. Stanley may only listen to vinyl records on his vintage turntable through a vacuum tube amplifier but most people who buy music (non-digitally at least) buy CDs and I think they deserve something which looks nice too. Perhaps Radiohead should hire a real designer to do the CD and leave Stanley to make the limited edition special superfan collector/archivist chinstroke edition.
Tom Gauld
2011-05-02 08:59:40


Hmm, I just reread my last comment and it seems a bit ruder/harsher than I meant, especially the last sentence. I stand by the sentiment, though.
Tom Gauld
2011-05-02 11:23:18


Sorry but whats the big deal!? It looks beautiful- if you dont want it- dont buy it!
Fraggel
2011-05-03 17:21:56


Unquestionably the most amazing lp/cd packagin EVER. Astonishing, beautiful. Easily a masterpiece in design and implementation.

I am utterly disgusted by the hate and animosity that posters here are spewing. Clearly, we need a dose of togetherness.
Jeff Glotzer
2011-05-03 22:20:08


Thick as a Brick
Dave
2011-05-04 04:20:06


Hey, it's a Great news!Thank you posting it!

Well, I THINK IT'S A BIG IDEA FROM RADIOHEAD AND AN INCREDIBLE MATERIAL, NEWSPAPER, NO DOUBT!

RADIOHEAD IS A BIG, AMAZING SURPRISE, AS ALWAYS AND MAKE BRIGHTEN OUR LIVES ALWAYS!
I LIKE OF ALL THE THINGS MADE FOR THE GUYS!
RADIOHEAD BRING US ONE MORE A MASTERPIECE AGAIN!

CHEERS GUYS!

THANK YOU GUYS, YOU ARE THE BEST!
LOVE YOU!

Natercia(Planet Ed O' Brien) from WASTE

Greetings from Curitiba,brasil.
natercia(PLANET ED O' BRIEN)
2011-05-08 00:04:12


Received mine this afternoon....

Interesting concept, just like picking up a copy of the Observer on a sunday with the free shitty CD/DVD inside.... The Vinyl looks beautiful, and indeed should sound a bit special, will give it its first run out tonight....

Love the blotter, how is this 'NOT' in relation to LSD? - I think Stanley makes himself look a bit silly in that respect.... All in all - is it worth 30 quid - for sure....

Peace
Simon
2011-05-09 16:33:55


Received mine this afternoon....

Interesting concept, just like picking up a copy of the Observer on a sunday with the free shitty CD/DVD inside.... The Vinyl looks beautiful, and indeed should sound a bit special, will give it its first run out tonight....

Love the blotter, how is this 'NOT' in relation to LSD? - I think Stanley makes himself look a bit silly in that respect.... All in all - is it worth 30 quid - for sure....

Peace
Simon
2011-05-09 16:52:27


Excellent and inventive. I love the fact that Donwood and Radiohead of forged such a lasting and meaningful relationship together - from their OK Computer 'The White Chocolate Farm' to this unconventional release. It's nice to know that there are some people who are at least trying to do something different...
Greg Silvester - Web Designer
2011-05-11 11:12:49


The album is beautiful. The blotter makes no sense.
Damn Skippy
2011-05-23 08:38:22


Got my US copy on Friday. Very unique and destine to be a classic. Haven't taken acid for 25 years, but I must admit the two would go well together.
Mr Marco
2011-05-24 00:43:46


Looks very nice, but the LSD(less) sheet has been done by Richie Hawtin's Plastikman - Sheet one more than 15 years before.
Mind the gap
2011-06-17 21:14:02


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