Over three weeks last December, music streaming site Last.fm joined the traditional end-of-year list-making frenzy, releasing a three-part Best of 2009 featurette to its online audience, giving the lowdown on the 40 most popular artists of the year.

But Last.fm went one further with their list-making project. Last.fm’s creative director Hannah Donovan says: “We wanted to create something that could be consumed a bit more slowly than our web featurette... December is a busy month for most people, and we thought it would just be really nice to sit down with a newspaper and a cup of tea, and read about the best music of the year at home during the holidays.”

So rather than sending out Christmas cards, Last.fm created just such a newspaper, in both London and New York editions.

The Best of 2009 web feature takes a graphic approach to show artists’ popularity with Last.fm users through the year. For the newspaper, Donovan had to come up with a look that chimed with Last.fm’s web presence while being distinctively print-like and in keeping with the times.

“2009 was a pretty serious year in terms of world economy and events, so while music is our escape from all that, I still wanted the design to be respectful of that context,” she explains. The visual design is predominantly typographic: hard-working, sober, newsy and inspired by those uncompromising gothic capitals favoured by early to mid 20th century American type foundries.

In graphic detail
Rather than simply list the artists, Donovan and the Last.fm team wanted to give some kind of clear visualisation of the year’s musical trends.

They created two large charts showing musical trends: one, on the cover of the paper, shows different genres as planets in a solar system.

Donovan explains: “For the Best of 2009 newspaper, we had two goals with the data visualisation: a cover that gave readers a sense of the global music landscape (and what’s inside) at a glance – that Lady Gaga dwarfed everyone else, or that indie has overtaken rock music.”