Darren Oorloff Makes Album Art
Melting in Nostalgic Futurism
MIKE O'DONNELL / EDITOR
"Those flamingoes are out of control!" "Look at this! Are you fucking kidding me?!" "I can't stop looking! Is this Pink Floyd or from the future?" When WNW HQ first came across WNW Member and Designer Darren Oorloff's album covers, there was a fair amount of wonderment, disbelief, and profanity in the volley of our responses. So we decided to interview Darren to find out some of the secrets to his approach, his influences, and what's next. While we might describe the common thread through Darren's work as "super-awesomeness," Darren helps us find some more descriptive words: "I’ve carefully curated my art to create an illusion of consistency – largely through similar colours and type treatments – but look closer and you’ll notice the only real links between the content are a sense of nostalgic futurism."
Darren also opens up about the trend in music toward designs that challenge the boundaries of the music's genre, as well as the necessity of creative tension to open a greater dialogue. "I don’t think new trends catch on in a creative field unless there is a sense of tension, perhaps a conflict – people need to disagree in order to create a conversation that will propel the trends’ reach." Here's to Darren's portfolio and music design continuing to surprise and provoke.
Tell us a little bit about your creative background. Who is Darren Oorloff and how did he get here?
My name is Darren Oorloff and I’m an Art Director from Melbourne. More specifically I create identity, packaging and artwork for the music industry.
How would you describe your creative style? Do you recognize a signature style that links all of your projects, or do you try to excuse yourself and approach each project as its own entity?
Committing to one particular style has been difficult for me. I think it’s important to establish a distinct identity as an artist, but this has a tendency to limit one’s skillset. As soon as I’ve mastered a style or a technique, I’m no longer interested in it and need to move onto something more complex. I’ve carefully curated my art to create an illusion of consistency – largely through similar colours and type treatments – but look closer and you’ll notice the only real links between the content are a sense of nostalgic futurism.
What do you see as the turning point in your creative career and development so far?
The biggest turning point for me was when my approach to design changed from ‘how do I make this?’ to ‘how do I make this look good?’ Prior to this, the physical execution of a concept was my biggest challenge – stitching multiple images together to create realistic compositions. Nowadays I have a pretty versatile set of skills and access to excellent resources where I lack, so my focus has shifted to creating beautiful compositions without the restrictions of technical incapacity.
Can you give us a little insight into your process for designing album and concert artwork? Do you try to only allow the music itself to influence your visual response, or do you also draw inspiration from whatever you’re into at the moment?
Surprisingly the music isn’t my primary influence. I’ve found a lot of artists have a carefully crafted image that doesn’t necessarily align with their sound. In my initial steps, I identify how the artist wants to be perceived. Then, I find a middle ground between what inspires me and what is applicable to the artist’s image and branding.
Do you find that it’s easier to create album artwork if you’re a fan of the music, or does it not really make a difference in your approach?
I don’t believe it makes a great difference. I try to remain fairly objective and open-minded about every project. You would think the quality of work would be much better if I was a fan of the genre and had an understanding of the history. However, some of the most creative and influential art is born of contrasting design style with genre. There is a strange movement happening right now where rappers are using a ‘metal’ aesthetic, the metal-heads are taking influence from the ‘electronic’ aesthetic and all the genres are swapping styles.
Which of your projects are you proudest of and why?
The project that garnered the most attention was for a Japanese heavy metal band called Crossfaith. This is a perfect example of a strange genre crossover as mentioned above. Crossfaith has some electronic influence in their otherwise heavy sound, so we decided to go all out on a sci-fi, almost Vapourware aesthetic. The biggest challenge here was to introduce aggression into a typically vibrant, fun style (Vapourware) and I think there’s a very fine line in the sci-fi spectrum between being cool and being nerdy. Anyway, I think I managed to navigate all of this gracefully with this particular artwork and the response was just manic.
What would be your dream project?
I’d love to work on some kind of elaborate stage/set design with immersive projection mapping. I’m also totally fascinated by VR and augmented reality, so it’d be nice to get involved in something within that realm.
Who are some of your biggest creative influences?
Tadao Ando (Architect)
Jiro Ono (Chef)
What are your favorite album covers of all time and why?
How would you describe the creative scene in Melbourne? Do you thrive off of being part of a creative community or are you more in your element as a lone wolf?
Melbourne has a very vibrant, ever-evolving creative scene. I particularly love this place because it’s young and still establishing its own identity as a creative city.
I surround myself with creatives every day for inspiration. However, up until now, I’ve designed solo, on account of having a very specific vision for developing my identity. Today, having established that style/aesthetic, I’d be open to collaboration with other artists where my technical abilities lack.
What do you do when Not Working?
I’ll try to get a skate in when there's time, and sun.
I also like to go for a run – I feel like I’m problem-solving 24/7 because I don’t – and can’t – apply a consistent method to each project. Running gives me an hour each day to focus on nothing, and to give me a break from that persistent problem-solving.
What’s some of the best creative advice you’ve ever heard or received that our members need to hear?
Ken Robinson said something that floored me in a talk about schools killing creativity: “If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original”
This isn’t something I’d ever considered. I feel like I’ve taken risks, but they’ve all been calculated risks. I don’t think new trends catch on in a creative field unless there is a sense of tension, perhaps a conflict – people need to disagree in order to create a conversation that will propel the trends’ reach.
Who are some WNW Members whose work you admire and why?
I’ve always been a fan of Anny Wang, her 3D game is on another level.