Illustration Adjunct Faculty Frank Olinsky was recently interviewed about his extensive design work for Smashing Pumpkins. He talked about his interactions with the band, his influences, and the outcomes. There are also some really great sketches included that show the creative process. Here’s a little snippet:
You’ve been involved over the years in several Smashing Pumpkins projects, the first of which was under the role of art director for the band’s double album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. For those of us who aren’t very familiar with the graphic design world, what exactly does that entail?
FO: The art director is responsible for the overall “look” of a project. The process begins with an initial concept and proceeds in stages to completion. Sometimes the concept comes from the art director, sometimes from the client, and sometimes out of a dialog between them. The art director may seek out appropriate pre-existing images or suggest creative talent to execute new images. He or she then orchestrates the creative process through final production, working with photographers, illustrators, designers, or other visual artists to achieve the desired result.
How did you come to be involved with the band? Did you work alongside the band on the art, or was it mostly through their record label at the time?
FO: The band had creative control over the package. That basically meant that I interacted directly with Billy and passed the results on to the record company. I was first contacted by someone who worked closely with the Pumpkins. They called me up and asked if I would be interested in designing the band’s forthcoming album package. I was already a Smashing Pumpkins fan – in fact, I was listening to Siamese Dream when I received that preliminary phone call. Of course I said yes.
A short while later, I got a call from Billy. He described the music on the album Mellon Collie as ‘psychedelic music played by a heavy metal band from the 1920s’. Pretty good description don’t you think? I figured that if I were going to be working with him closely over a long period of time, it would be helpful to know why he had chosen me for the project. He said he owned quite a few CDs that I had art directed/designed and he liked that I didn’t have one style that I imposed on all my projects. Rather, he felt that each was a good design that fit the particular recording. Besides being flattered I thought that here was someone with a keen eye who knew exactly what he wanted. I felt we could collaborate on some great things, and that turned out to be true.