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Alan Ngo presents his winning design to members of the Bent River Records team and students in Constanza Pacher’s typography course.

Students pitch 19 designs for Juno winner’s newest album

January 24, 2020 | Arts & Culture
When Mike Rud’s (Music Diploma ’88) new album comes off the presses in a few months, he won’t be the only creative person with something to celebrate.

The recording itself and the album’s cover design were created with help from students and alumni at MacEwan University’s record label, Bent River Records and the Bachelor of Design program.

After the tracks were laid for the Juno award-winning jazz guitarist and songwriter’s new album, Salome’s Dance, students in Constanza Pacher’s DESN 330: Typography II course took over, designing the album’s cover art. It’s the third year running that Constanza’s typography class has partnered with Bent River Records to work on projects for the record label’s artists. Because each assignment had a real client, a real project brief, technical rigour and the potential for the result to enter the commercial world, Constanza says her students were fully invested and engaged.

“There is a higher level of creativity, originality and conceptual depth with this project than any other,” explains the assistant professor in the Bachelor of Design program. Students weren’t just working for a grade, she adds, they were truly aiming to meet the needs of their client.

Meeting the client’s needs, however, was a bit tricky admits Mike, explaining how instrumental albums differ from their pop counterparts. “When the title of the album comes from a track with lyrics, there’s a whole narrative that naturally goes with it, but instrumental music is more a mixture of aesthetic components with a process-oriented approach – how the musicians interact with each other on the particular day we are recording.”

That meant Mike was open to and invited all sorts of different ideas. And that’s exactly what he got.

“I was amazed by all of their hard work and the amount of thought and genuine effort that clearly went into their designs,” he says. “I really liked the chances that students took and feel very good about the choice I made.”

Mike’s selection was Alan Ngo’s bubbly, colourful design that showcases his passion for hand-lettering.


Alan Ngo’s winning design.

“I wanted to go for something playful and fun, that had the big, bright lettering and colours of the 1960s – a retro vibe that still felt sophisticated and modern,” says Alan, a second-year Bachelor of Design student.

In addition to the $500 cash prize from Bent River Records, Alan will get to see his design come to life sometime in the next few months. And he’s not the only one who is excited to see that happen.

“Even though this project was a competition, we weren’t competing against each other,” says Chloe Harrison, who was also a student in DESN 330. “Throughout the project and the critiques, we were all helping each other, bouncing ideas off of one another and pushing each other to do our best work. It was a great learning experience.”

What makes this assignment so successful?

Constanza knows this project clearly resonates with her students, but she wants to learn more about exactly which parts make it so compelling, so she’s beginning a research study to measure and compare student engagement in this project with other projects. The results, she says, could help inform curriculum design in the future.

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