cd packaging designs

6 Essential CD Packaging Tips for Every Designer

It’s your first time to design a CD packaging and you thought it’s easy to pull off. After all, you’re too familiar with the CD artworks of your favorite 90s boy bands. How can it be hard, right? Well it can be pretty tough because we don’t want a CD packaging just to contain the discs anymore, we want a CD packaging that can convince people to buy the CD instead merely downloading music.

That is a big challenge to the art directors and designers. On top of that, the CD packaging must reflect the branding of the artist. So basically, the CD packaging should call attention, seduce, have much more value for money than the download, and must be aligned to the band’s branding.

Whew! So now you know you can’t treat it like a class project in college where you cram the night before with a bottle of beer and rock music.

Here are some tips rules on how to create a really kickass CD packaging that might land you a spot at the Grammys for best record package.

1. Begin Early

cd packaging, 6 Essential CD Packaging Tips for Every Designer

Well this is pretty basic advice and applies to almost any job but this is especially very crucial in design. Why? Because it takes a lot of brainstorming and making drafts and experimenting and testing which works and doesn’t.

Only geniuses can pull off with a good design on a very tight deadline and even then, it’s still a hit or miss every time. Begin early to develop the concept more, research more, brainstorm more and then make mockups, get feedback. It can’t be done in an instant.

2. Keep it simple

cd packaging, 6 Essential CD Packaging Tips for Every Designer

Going “extra” on your CD packaging can have the opposite effect especially it is totally not the personality of the musician. And even if the artist is a bit more lively like, say…Bjork, it would still be useful to come up with something simple. Remove anything unnecessary.

Consumers are also bombarded with visual information at every step that they’d crave a sensory break.

3. Make sure it does its primary purpose

cd packaging, 6 Essential CD Packaging Tips for Every Designer

Which is to safely house the CD while being transported or placed on the shelf. Make sure the CD doesn’t slip out, is easy to remove and put back, and that it won’t cause cracks and scratches on the CD during shipping.

4. Tell a story

cd packaging, 6 Essential CD Packaging Tips for Every Designer

What’s the personality of the band and the story of the album? Let it reflect in every decision you make for the design of your CD package. Even the simplest of design still has to convey a story or mood.

Even if you just put your CD in a white paper with nothing in it (but why would you?!), there’s a story there. Everything you include and do not include has meaning so you better think of the story first before actually executing your design.

5. Pay attention to typography

cd packaging, 6 Essential CD Packaging Tips for Every Designer

Whether the product is sold over the Internet, in the store or both, the text on the packaging should match where it will be sold.

This also requires putting what is important on the packaging and omitting superfluous text. If consumers have to strain to read how wonderful the product is, they will buy from the competitor.

6. Consider the cost and manufacturing constraints

cd packaging, 6 Essential CD Packaging Tips for Every Designer

The sky is not the limit when it comes to design or art…or anything therefore you have to consider the cost of the materials you’re using (tip: Don’t use gold), shipping and storage limitations (If it weighs a kilo, then you’re gonna tone those arm muscles for sure if you bring them on tour but it’s better to get a gym membership). You also have to consider the time it takes to manufacture said design.

If you follow these six rules, you’ll surely have less pain in the ass while making a helluva masterpiece of a CD packaging! [And don’t forget that we can help you in every step of the way!]


James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD/vinyl and merch company in LA.

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