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Posted by: Creativematch | Date added: Mon 20 Nov 2006

When the phenominally successful Island Records revamped its Kensington High Street offices recently, they brought in their creative mastermind Cally, a design enigma, who has pinned the company’s musical heritage to the wall

BAF Graphics, Island Records

The company's owner Chris Blackwell had always prided his Island for being first and foremost about artistic vision and the uncompromising quality of his artistes such as PJ Harvey, Nick Drake, Tricky, Grace Jones and U2.

The result was that Island was one of the first post-90s economic depression companies to adopt a walls and doors-free working environment. They didn’t even have marketing men, let alone a marketing ‘department’.

Anyone who visited Island got a taste of true creative space which was reflective of the personalities, not just artistes but of those people discovering them and bringing their music to our ears. That was Cally’s vsion.

Island’s story, being one of success, has inevitably meant that shareholders get the last word on what makes economic sense and so when Universal took over, one of the first changes was to move all the sister companies, Mercury, Polydor and Island, under one roof: to be precise a car park building in Kensington: effectively the mirror opposite of what was embodied in its old Chiswick building.

With only a limited lease and the restrictions of working with an anonymous office block where every floor and door looks the same, Island's individuality seemed under threat. And that was the challenge Cally faced when he was called in a year after the company moved in to get things back to grass roots.

With the help of BAF Graphics and the exciting capabilities their BAF Rho 600 printer offers, he printed, painted, splashed and graffitied corrugated walls, reflecting the Jamaican aesthetic of the company. And with an eye to Island’s past, doors are covered in photographs of doors from the old Chiswick office.

Colourful but laid back. There’s no glossy design here – it’s all rustic, earthy and cost-effective, very much in the spirit of the Island recording process.

Island is a hugely successful 21st Century music company, but its décor pays tribute to its glorious heritage. As Cally says: ‘It’s about the truth and integrity of the artists, not about sell, sell, sell.’

For example, this background has been adorned with Island treasures such as the graffitied Trabant bonnet used in the U2 Achtung Baby album cover. The Bob Marley Wall features a small section of Marley photos which have toured the world, a bunch of original plain cardboard sleeved 45’s have been framed for prosperity and Larry Mullen’s togas designed to raise money for the charity War Child are exhibited.

All the artistes appear in tuxedos around the walls – a surreal montage of famous faces. In 1969 Island produced a sampler record 'You Can All Join In', which Cally bought as a teenager, just for the cover. It features every single one of Island artistes in Hyde Park, bleary eyed after a party.

Nowadays it would be impossible to get all the artistes together for a moment like that, but Cally has superimposed the tuxedoed models' bodies on to the modern Island legends. And these are the personalities that shine out from their identical uniforms.

BAF Graphics, Island RecordsThings may have changed at Island but Cally has managed to encapsulate an era and remind staff daily of the guts and spirit of Island founders. Chris Blackwell’s original Island where people can escape to, and the magic that has been captured on these once grey uniform walls are steeped in living history.

Whilst at Island work by Cally included the U2’s Passengers album cover, Nick Drake’s Way to Blue (he manages the Nick Drake Estate) and all of the Cranberries’ sleeves.

Cally set up Antar in 1977 which he later ran alongside his Island role. He continues to spend 50% of his time designing album covers and advertising campaigns for musical artistes, maintaining strong ties with Island and parent company Universal. He has just finished a six-month project designing Scissor Sisters' new album and campaign and is currently working with the Kaiser Chiefs.

BAF Graphics Ltd Island Records Cally at AntarCally doing research into corrugated iron wall surfaces.


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