Elliot Jay Stocks is a designer, speaker, and author. He is the Creative Director of Adobe Typekit, the founder of typography magazine 8 Faces, one half of Viewport Industries, and an electronic musician.

Kning Disk: beautiful Swedish design

Posted on 18 January 2008 7 comments

Article illustration for Kning Disk: beautiful Swedish design & music

The other day, a package arrived in the post. It was a gift from a friend to say thanks for an album cover I recently designed for his band, and inside it were four CDs released by Kning Disk, each one in some kind of interesting, card-based packaging. Before I even played the music I fell in love with the CDs, because of the way the packaging was designed and how it worked, and it inspired me to create a new blog category (or series) called ‘design inspiration’. Welcome to the first post in that series!

You see, I often find inspiring bits of design and feel frustrated that it’s not being seen by as many people as possible. This packaging is a prime example of that; not that it’s earth-shatteringly different, but its hand-made feel and attention to detail make it stand out. In this world of MP3s and music collections on hard drives, it’s testament to the power of packaging that these CDs are still sitting on my desk a week after receiving them. Sure, I ripped them to iTunes straight away, but the important thing is that they haven’t yet been filed away in a box along with the rest of my collection – they’re on my desk because I love looking at them. They’re beautiful artefacts and – because of their limited run, hand-made approach – there’s something personal about them.

James Blackshaw: Walking Into Sleep

Despite utilising some textbook Scandinavian über-minimalism, this package is striking in its simplicity. For a start there’s no text on the front cover, and the reverse is as plain as can be: an artist and title, plus some small print and a barcode being the sole occupants of a plain white back cover. But this cover is split into two; its top half overhangs the bottom to hide the opening, and – when opened – we realise there are no joins on the entire package: the whole thing is one piece of card.

The interior mirrors the exterior by placing one image in the central square and flanking it above and below with two large white spaces, on the lower of which reside some liner notes. The disc itself floats freely within the open package, but sits inside a soft fabric sleeve. Mmmm. Cosy!

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Balroynigress: Shampoo & Champagne

The second most striking package again uses subtle plays on the standard card folding and scoring we’re used to. The entire sleeve is made out of one piece of heavyweight paper but the purposefully shallow trim on one of the edges means the interior artwork shows through to the exterior. Nice! The paper then folds out to first reveal an inner section of credits and a photograph, before opening out fully to reveal one giant montage image (the one that shows through to the cover), with lyrics and the liner notes on the reverse.

On one face sits a small circle, on which the CD itself is mounted. It’s a fragile package and one that reflects the quiet intensity of the music contained within.

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Erik Enocksson: Färval Falkenberg

Following a slightly more traditional format, this album – printed on a lovely uncoated stock like the ones above – opens out to a double gatefold layout. One ‘pocket’ contains the disc while the other contains a staple-bound, 12-page booklet consisting entirely of full-bleed photographs. The inside and back covers of the card packaging place text on plain white pages to avoid any kind of clutter. It’s a technique seen before on the James Bradshaw album and reminds me of traditional book design.

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Various: Whispers From The Forests, Screams From The Mountains (New Suggestions For The Swedish Flora And Fauna)

Wow, what a great title! ‘Whispers…’ is a compilation co-released by Häpna, Ideal Recordings and Kning Disk, and was given away to subscribers of The Wire magazine. The layout style of Mattias Nilsson – who designed all of these packages bar the one for Balroynigress – becomes even more clear as white card and blocks of text dominate this release. A single, text-less image adorns the cover of this package, which is the most regular (but still beautiful) layout of the four albums: a standard gatefold, with the disc sitting inside one of the two pockets. The sleeve I designed for a friend’s band (for which I received these discs as thanks) also uses this format, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how that turns out.

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And what about the music?

Oh yes, that was pretty good too! But it was the packaging design that first caught me eye, and it has continued to do so. Although this is probably the most design-indulgent post I’ve ever written, I hope you it gives you guys a feel about what this packaging is really like, and I hope that showing Mattias Nilsson’s (and others’) work here will allow it to reach, influence, and inspire many more people. Let the geekness ensue!


  1. Matt Munsey

    Matt Munsey

    19 January 2008 @ 12:00AM #

    I love package design. Sometimes I wish I had gone that route instead of web design. There is something about being able to hold and touch and feel something that you designed that gives so much satisfaction. I only did a few package design projects in school, but I enjoyed them a lot. I wish I had done more.

  2. Hamish M

    Hamish M

    19 January 2008 @ 01:22AM #

    I agree with Matt. Package design does sounds like an enjoyable medium. There’s something so cool about actually feeling and holding what you make.

    Thanks for these awesome examples, Elliot!

  3. Grant


    19 January 2008 @ 01:47AM #

    Thanks for sharing these. I love examples like this that change my perception of what packaging “should” be.

    I could be wrong, but I have a theory that with the proliferation of digital music sales (and the reduction in physical sales) we’ll begin to see more of a premium put on unique physical album package designs. Design that, like you said, you don’t immediately hide away with the rest of your jewel cases. I’m often happy to buy the physical CD for a few more dollars to get a better experience like these examples.

  4. Lisa


    20 January 2008 @ 05:33AM #

    Thank goodness your website is back to normal! Your design is a real inspiration to me, and I hated to see it messed up!

  5. Elliot Jay Stocks

    Elliot Jay Stocks

    20 January 2008 @ 07:49PM #

    Cheers for the comments, guys!

    @ Grant: You’re absolutely right, and I think it’s already evident that there’s been a shift towards more extravagant packaging in an attempt to entice buyers away from the free download and back towards the physical product. I’m happy to see more of this; fancy packaging is far more enticing to me as a consumer than crappy ‘enhanced CD’ extras or anything like that!

    @ Lisa: Thanks! Yeah, that was very frustrating for a while there…

  6. Colin Devroe

    Colin Devroe

    21 January 2008 @ 06:43PM #

    Inspiring indeed! Not being a designer, but always paying attention to aesthetic – I too enjoy being inspired by good design.

    One of the major ways design influences a non-designer is usability without the sacrifice of aesthetic. I’ve seen a ton of web sites, magazines, and even album covers and packaging design that, while they looked very nice, they weren’t all that usable. The balance between usability and aesthetic in the examples you’ve provided are inspirational for sure.

    Excellent post, I look forward to more in this series.

  7. patoa


    25 January 2008 @ 05:36PM #

    that´s how music should be covered. albums like these underline that it is hard work and also art to make googd music. back to quality – great work.

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