Many creatives cite record covers as the things that first switched them onto design, and the fascination with this canvas can endure the length of a career. Digit investigated the industry, and the threat MP3 poses to CD art.

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Long considered one of the most innovative areas of graphic design, record-sleeve art has a history of introducing complex imagery to the mass market. 
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<p>
Popular music, as a form of youth culture, is intimately entwined with visual culture. From the psychedelic era of the 60s through the DIY ethos of punk, the gloss of disco, and the urban bling of hip-hop, the image has been almost as vital a cultural expression as the music – and in a few cases, more so. 
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<p>
Record sleeves have never been just packaging, they’re objects that express the desires of the audience in a fundamental way. Graphic design is an ever-changing medium, but right now design for the music industry is undergoing change of an almost epochal nature. 
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<p>
At the core of this is the MP3 revolution. While CD sales still outstrip music downloads by a significant margin, the growth of iTunes and file-sharing sites cannot be ignored. 
</p>
<p>
“I’m personally a vinyl person,” says Ed Templeton, creative director of Red Design. The company has created artwork for an array of musicians including David Gray, McFly, and Fatboy Slim. 
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<p>
“When I got around to doing this professionally, it was mainly CDs.” Despite the never-ending cycle of change, Templeton is optimistic about the future. 
</p>
<p>
“Having seen formats come and go, I think it’ll be a long time before there is no physical product. We recently did a Fatboy Slim campaign for CD, DVD, vinyl, download, and UMD.” 
</p>
<p>
However, the change from CD to digital download is surely even more profound than the switch from LP to CD. CDs represented a cut in canvas size, with the generous 12-inch sleeve replaced by a mere 12cm, but designers quickly took to making what was once a simple sleeve into complex and detailed booklets. 
</p>
<p>
With downloads, the artwork is often gone entirely. In fact, we may be seeing the beginning of a generation gap – today’s teenagers are growing up accustomed to screen-savers, desktop wallpaper and, of course, videos as the primary modes of visual expression associated with music, rather than sleeve art. 
</p>
<p>
<h2>Download festival</h2> 
</p>
<p>
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