OpenWork – a design collective made up of Susana Carvalho, Kai Bernau, Elisabeth Malcolm and Daniel Powers – has created a new site allowing users to browse over 148,000 albums from iTunes’ music library by the colour of their artwork.
Predominant.ly displays iTunes albums in thumbnail format, allowing users to select from a drop down menu of colours and musical genres to refine results. There are 954 shades to choose from, based on the results of Randall Munroe’s XKCD Color Survey (an online experiment where users were shown colours and asked to type a name for it, resulting in over 5 million responses) and 17 musical genres from pop to punk, soul and reggae. Users can then click on a thumbnail to hear samples of tracks on the ample, or click on a link to view the album’s page in iTunes.
OpenWork says the site aims to encourage music lovers to discover new content in a fun and visually engaging way. “In the days of iTunes and Spotify, our primary interfaces to music look like spreadsheet apps – they make it less likely that we would find something that falls outside our normal musical tastes, something that lets us broaden our horizons, or expand our musical base,” reads a statement on the site. “We either have to search for new music (and how can you search for something that you don’t already know?) or software algorithms give helpful results that are often useless, or hilarious. The act of discovery makes our music more special to us: it’s the thrill of the hunt and the sense of discovery that we miss,” it adds.
Bernau says OpenWork has been developing the site part-time for around six months, categorising 148,632 releases. “There is a lot of things that we filter out, like classical music, because those covers are usually not as visually driven, and a number of keywords (such as ‘Karaoke’ in the album title) that are not likely to have nice cover art,” he explains.
“The categorisation was actually the easy part – it took some time to figure out which method of determining the dominant colour of an album worked, and developing a technique for processing all of the data into a form that was usable for us, but was also a technical challenge. Once those hurdles were cleared, it really became a design question: how can we make this a total delight to use, and can we make the interface as welcoming as possible,” he adds.
As well as being a great tool for procrastination, the site throws up some surprising and amusing results – a search simply by colour will place Ed Sheeran alongside Patsy Cline, for example, or Nirvana with Bruno Mars. It also offers a look at some of the colours favoured by different genres – a search for ‘purple’ and ‘electronica’ will unsurprisingly reveal dozens of covers, likewise ‘black’ and soul or metal, yet there are no results for blues albums with green covers, and just a handful of blue covers for country albums.
Bernau says he hopes the site will “elevate the experience” of looking for music on a screen, making it “as personal and delightful as stumbling across a long-forgotten favourite in a second-hand record store.”