alt about

Jesse Marinoff Reyes:

I wrote at length on the work of Grant Alden on his essential document of American music, No Depression magazine—both as designer and art director for its covers. But this was an entire magazine he was doing remember, and much more. It spawned t-shirts and compilation cds—and two collections of its writing which I had the privilege to design the covers for . In the immediate aftermath of the magazine’s demise—at the hands of the economy, ad revenue dried-up as it did for magazines large and small across the spectrum—it managed an all too brief comeback for three issues as a “bookazine” hybrid (for the same publisher of the second “best of” collection), the second issue of which I designed the cover for. Not to mention over the course of the magazine’s initial run, I was pulled in by Alden to design two feature spreads.

So here is Grant Alden as art director of me—his onetime influence and ongoing cohort in crime.

JMR Design

This is the first collection of No Depression’s writing—spanning from its inception in 1995 through to 1998 when this volume was published. Although this was energetically put out by an independent publisher in Nashville, the package was in the hands of Alden to produce, and he approached me to design the cover—I had begun a career phase in book publishing, joining the staff of Penguin Book’s Adult Trade Division in 1995 as a cover designer and associate art director, so we both were three years into our respective runs and I had the beginnings of a respectable portfolio in book covers.

Alden’s directive was pretty straight forward: make it look like a farm catalog that’s been sitting in a barn for 50 years.

I was especially pleased to render this in two colors (like many a vintage industrial missal) but also in particular, black and orange—as No Depression’s first issue had been. An added bonus was printing on one of the French Paper Company’s thick, recycled-content paper stocks (to look appropriately “industrial”). I figured it wouldn’t detract from the design if any given copy were a little weather-beaten after years of ownership as that was the genesis of its concept anyway.

No Depression: An Introduction to Alternative Country Music (Whatever That Is)
Dowling Press, 1998
Design: Jesse Marinoff Reyes
Art Director/Client: Grant Alden

JMR Design

This is the second collection of No Depression’s writing—compiling material up to 2005 and coinciding with the magazine’s tenth anniversary. This was published by the University of Texas Press, which meant a step up in distribution and promotion under the greater umbrella of a series of titles devoted to roots music that the publisher has a special interest in. As with the first collection, I was again commissioned by Alden. No Depression had just updated its masthead and a comprehensive redesign as Alden and (co-editor) Peter Blackstock were refining what they saw as No Depression’s mission—so a slightly more complex approach to the same core identity was called for.

I had already been experimenting rather successfully with a series of design-driven illustrations for No Depression, that were in part influenced by the film titles and posters of Saul Bass—a design favorite of Alden’s also (also in part to the ongoing influence of Art Chantry—whose promotional designs for a 1994 Mono Men record pointed the way). It was a natural progression to adapt the approach to a cover design which I’d been hoping to do eventually. Hey, multiple applications worked for Saul—and was influential on many other designers in his era too. It was an approach that was also designed not to be a remote departure from how No Depression had been defined prior to this either, so a nod to the first collection was included—the clipart of the acoustic guitar is shown as a background element within the directional panels of color.

The Best of No Depression: Writing About American Music
The University of Texas Press, 2005
Design: Jesse Marinoff Reyes
Art Director/Client: Grant Alden

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