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Beastie Boys – Hello Nasty album art and promotion

Contributed by Lauren Hart on Mar 15th, 2020. Artwork published in
July 1998
.
    Beastie Boys – Hello Nasty album art and promotion 1
    Source: https://everythingisnoise.net Image: EverythingIsNoise. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Hello Nasty is the fifth studio album by the Beastie Boys, released on July 14, 1998 by Grand Royal/Capitol Records. The album art was designed by Bill McMullen with art direction by Cey Adams, co-founder of design studio The Drawing Board (1986–1999).

    From Min Chen’s article for Proxy Music:

    The album’s sleeve art marked a dimensional shift from the street-dwelling images of 1989’s Paul’s Boutique and 1992’s Check Your Head, embracing instead a whole other astro plane. Cover designer Bill McMullen (who, while working at Def Jam Records in the mid ‘90s, first met the Beastie Boys at a basketball game) revealed in 2013 that he’d actually planned to illustrate an underwater base, a “weird, bottom-of-the-sea type thing.” Beastie Boy Adam Horowitz, however, nudged him onto the opposite path. Recalled McMullen, “He was like, ‘Yeah, it’s cool, like, undersea stuff. But you know what’s really cool is a space station.’”

    The space theme extends to the visual rendition of the band name and album title. They feature original lettering inspired by Countdown, a futuristic (or, by 1998, retro-futuristic) typeface desiged by Colin Brignall for Letraset in 1965.

    [More info on Discogs]

    Visual comparison of the original lettering (top) and a resetting in the Countdown font, using URW’s digital version (bottom). All letterforms have been adjusted to various degrees. The differences are most striking in a and the descenderless y, where all the thicks were moved to the left. Likewise, the ascenders in b and h were thinned to match the left part of the bowls. The waist of a e s was lowered, and thin top horizontals thickened. Lastly, the dot on i was omitted.
    Comparison: Fonts In Use. License: CC BY-NC-SA.

    Visual comparison of the original lettering (top) and a resetting in the Countdown font, using URW’s digital version (bottom). All letterforms have been adjusted to various degrees. The differences are most striking in a and the descenderless y, where all the thicks were moved to the left. Likewise, the ascenders in b and h were thinned to match the left part of the bowls. The waist of a e s was lowered, and thin top horizontals thickened. Lastly, the dot on i was omitted.

    Back cover with track list in .
    Source: https://www.rockers.de Photo: Rockers.de. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Back cover with track list in Futura.

    Schematic drawing of the canned band members with an outlined version of the lettering, on one of the inner sleeves.
    Source: https://www.flickr.com Photo: VINYL7 RECORDS. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Schematic drawing of the canned band members with an outlined version of the lettering, on one of the inner sleeves.

    Record label (Side B). “Grand Royal” features the same style of lettering, with a thin ascender for d. Unlike in Countdown, g is monocular. Two weights of  are used for the track list and the credits.
    Source: https://www.flickr.com Photo: VINYL7 RECORDS. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Record label (Side B). “Grand Royal” features the same style of lettering, with a thin ascender for d. Unlike in Countdown, g is monocular. Two weights of Futura are used for the track list and the credits.

    Record label (Side D).
    Source: https://www.flickr.com Photo: VINYL7 RECORDS. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Record label (Side D).

    Apparently the designer of this promotional poster wanted to add the release date in a similar style. The numerals are not from Countdown, though, but from the rounder , another Space Age face issued by VGC around the same time.
    Source: https://www.amoeba.com Photo: Amoeba. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Apparently the designer of this promotional poster wanted to add the release date in a similar style. The numerals are not from Countdown, though, but from the rounder Amelia, another Space Age face issued by VGC around the same time.

    UK promo billboard, 60″×40″
    Source: https://eil.com Photo: EIL.com. License: All Rights Reserved.

    UK promo billboard, 60″×40″

    Tour posters in various colors.
    Source: https://www.flickr.com Photo: siamesepuppy. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Tour posters in various colors.

    3 Comments on “Beastie Boys – Hello Nasty album art and promotion”

    1. Florian’s expansion on this post made it so much better than I could have imagined. I’m so curious why they decided to give the g on the record label a descender rather than the form they used for the y. Did your research reveal anything about this, Florian?

    2. Thanks for submitting a post about this great album, Lauren! It was my pleasure to add a few bits and pieces to it.

      Regarding the g: I don‘t know for sure why it got a descender. My guess would be that it just looks better this way. A crucial difference between a typeface and lettering is that the former is a system that needs to work for each and every conceivable combination of letters, while the latter only has to take the letters in the sequence at hand into account.

      Having two descending y’s on the cover would make the line look less compact and striking. On the labels, however, a non-descending g might look crammed, and more so than the y. First, it here is the initial letter, which typically is capitalized and hence appears bigger. Second, unlike y, g has three horizontals (a two-storey form even four). More importantly, a descending g gives “grand royal” some welcome rotational symmetry: first letters descends, last letter ascends, with everything between staying within the x-height (the ascender in d, quite literally, carries hardly any weight).

    3. Oh, of course! I was so distracted by the g that I didn’t even look at the l. Thanks, Florian!

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