Continuing with our occasional blog called U2 x 5, whereby we take 5 related pieces we’ve designed or been involved with for the band and comment on them, we thought we’d share some things we’ve done for U2 that through design or accident aren’t at first or even second look easily seen. Mostly these elements were obscure or hidden, sometimes deliberately so and sometimes we included them just for fun.
Zooropa – album cover
The album was recorded while the band were on their European leg of the Zoo TV tour called Zooropa, from which the album took its name. The tour with its highly charged electronic TV images in all of their saturated colours and fizz gave us the notion of conjuring up the sleeve of Zooropa as a kind of electronic flag. It’s central motif of the Astrobaby surrounded by 12 stars in imitation of the European flag tied in strongly with the album’s European roots. The design, made quite quickly, is built up of a grid of images in the same manner of Achtung Baby over which layers of distressed, floating text are placed. This text was comprised of the upcoming album’s track titles provided to us as we were designing the sleeve. Somehow lost in the rush, we managed to not to update this track list so that several songs that didn’t make the final cut got left behind in the embedded piece, including Wake Up Dead Man, Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me and If You Wear That Velvet Dress!
ZooTV Tour – banknote
During U2′s Zooropa tour, Bono appeared as the MacPhisto character, a horned, gold lamé-clad washed up rock star who sang Daddy’s Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car while fake money in the shape of Zoo Ecu banknotes were cannoned into the audience by the thousands. We had good fun designing these notes. One side of the notes featured a cigar-smoking Bono give the peace sign, while the other side mimicked a real banknote with its filigree detailing, its Bank Of Zoo seal and its declaration to Watch More TV. An ‘Ecu’ was a precursor to the Euro, the shared single currency of the European Union’s member countries. No banknote would be complete without a serial number and the Zoo Ecu banknotes were no different. The serial number U21514201521R featured on one side of the note top left and top right, with each set of two numbers standing for a letter of the alphabet which spelled out ‘U2 on tour’.
Pop – album cover
Sometimes people read things into U2 covers that weren’t necessarily intentional. The Pop album features a track called The Playboy Mansion. After the Pop album came out we had a fax from the Playboy people who wanted to know why we’d used their logo and what we were trying to say. We weren’t aware that we’d used it at all but when we examined the cover it just so happened that if you look closely at the shot of Larry’s eye and turn the picture sideways the shadows make it look as if we’ve placed the Playboy logo over one eye! Brilliant but completely accidental!
All That You Can’t Leave Behind – album cover
The cover of the album features the band in the departures hall of 2F at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris photographed by Anton Corbijn. The band sometimes get in the act and enjoy a little hidden message as much as we do and so they asked us to revise the oval signage that appears on the left hand side of the album sleeve. The original image had F21-36 and indicated the direction to a series of check-in desks. The sleeve says J33-3 and is a biblical reference to Jeremiah 33.3, which reads “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and hidden things which you have not known.”
No Line On The Horizon – album sleeve
One of the themes within the album is that of universal balance and contrast, of night and day. It’s from this theme that we came up with the equals mark idiom as a form of title for the album, from the universal language of mathematics. The implication is of parallel force; of harmony and discord as in Matthew 6:10 …on earth as it is in heaven. To further the mathematical theme, in the digipak version of the album we put in a little hidden code – a piece of the Fibonacci sequence. Named after an Italian mathematician, the number sequence is related to the golden section, an ideal natural ratio as seen in art and architecture and in abundance in natural structures. It’s a numerical sequence that is a beautiful example of natural balance and equilibrium.
AMP Visual have recently found a box full of their of their long out of print 2003 book Stealing Hearts At A Traveling Show: The Graphic Design of U2. You can get this unique softback book for 29 Euros (and that includes postage worldwide), it’ll be signed by the team and 1 in ten of this beautifully printed book will also contain a hand-drawn postcard by the designers. Plus, all buyers will go into a draw to win a copy of the rare U2 Wide Awake In Europe on numbered 12″ vinyl. Go to ampvisual.com/shop