Daily Archives: August 17, 2011

Design: Barney Bubbles

Elvis Costello - Armed Forces Promo Poster - 1979

Colin Fulcher aka Barney Bubbles (30 July 1942 – 14 November 1983)

Barney Bubbles was a influencial British graphic designer primarily known for his exceptional work with 70’s and 80’s punk and new wave bands. Barney joined indie label Stiff Records as designer and art director early in 1977. Bubbles generated a body of creative work which helped secure Stiff’s reputation as an exciting new independent label. Bubbles created sleeves for bands including The Damned, Elvis Costello and Ian Dury.

Bubbles’ style was colorful, playful, loaded with geometry, art-history and music-history reference, in-jokes, cryptograms and symbolism. He loved pushing the limits of excepted design. It was a new era as the punks were coming into power. There were no rules and Barney took traditional design and marketing and turned it on its head.

Some of Barney’s design ‘jokes';

  • Elvis Costello’s – This Years Model which was designed to have a deliberate mis-cropping so the entire design was off-register. A different version of the same photo was used for every major country.
  • The Damned – Damned, Damned, Damned – a limited number of which were deliberately printed with a photo of Eddie and the Hot Rods on the back of the album cover, rather than The Damned. An ‘erratum’ sticker was put on the back cover apologizing for this ‘mistake’, and on the front of the LP – on top of the original shrinkwrap – was a red ‘food-fight’ sticker that says ‘Damned Damned’, thus completing the LP title when read underneath the band’s name.
  • Elvis Costello – Armed Forces -with an extended back panel consisting of folding flaps, this included postcards which carried the instruction DON’T JOIN (advice against joining the armed forces, and simultaneously a message that these postcards had been die-cut away from the rest of the sleeve).
  • Ian Dury – Do it Yourself – which was released in 28 sleeve variations, all of which were wallpaper designs supplied by the manufacturer Crown.
  • Barney’s marketing of Elvis Costello’s My Aim is True included ad in three UK music papers from which a poster of Costello could be constructed, and the first 1000 pressings contained a Help Us Hype Elvis insert which if completed and returned to Stiff ensured a friend would received a free copy.

Barney Bubbles committed suicide in London on 14 November 1983. Check out his book – Reasons to be Cheerful, the Life and Work of Barney Bubbles.

Elvis Costello Get Happy Promo Barney Bubbles

Ian Dury - Do It Yourself 4 of 28 different covers

Elvis Costello - Armed Forces - British Gatefold LP 1979

Early DEVO poster series

The Life and Work of Barney Bubbles

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