O1 — Oasis
1992, Manchester. In a ‘Sliding Doors’ moment, 20-something graphic designer Brian Cannon stepped into the same lift as Inspiral Carpets’* roadie, Noel Gallagher. It was the start of a beautiful creative relationship.
They got chatting about vintage Adidas trainers and struck up a rapport. It turned out that Cannon’s £25-a-week studio (“if you could call it that”) shared the same building as the Inspirals’ modest HQ.
Two years later, Oasis’ debut album ‘Definitely Maybe’ was released, featuring cover art direction and logo by Cannon. It went on to sell over 15 million copies worldwide.
Not long after the elevator pitch, Cannon met the rest of the band at a gig in Sheffield, where they were supporting another Creation Records signing, BMX Bandits. He’d taken along a book of classic record sleeves to test the water with Noel, Liam, Bonehead, and the rest. Flicking through, he alighted on an old Rolling Stones cover called, suitably enough, ‘Out of Our Heads’. It wasn’t so much the sleeve itself, as the Decca record label logo that caught his attention.
“I never refer to other record sleeves to avoid becoming derivative,” says Cannon. “In fact, I’m more influenced by Renaissance Flemish painters like Jan Van Eyck. I’m intrigued by symbolism and visual metaphors. But I could see the potential of creating a serious branding exercise for Oasis. Even then, I knew they would become absolutely massive.”
The box frame device was lifted directly from the Decca logo, but the first incarnation of the Oasis logotype was based on an “approximation of the adidas font, which is a variation of Futura,” explains Cannon. However, the o’s and the a’s proved too similar. “From a distance the word looked too much like ‘Oosis’,” says Cannon. Instead, he plumped for Univers Black Italic, and an iconic band logo was born. It’s worth remembering that this was a pre-digital creation, hand-rendered and pasted up as artwork, ready to ship off to the typesetters.
“That logo just works on everything. From a postage stamp to a billboard or a T-shirt,” says Cannon who, since 1990, has headed up his own studio called Microdot Creative. “I tended to keep things simple — use it in black or white, or sometimes pick up on the colour of the main image. I was given almost complete visual freedom by Alan McGee [head of Creation Records] and Noel. I used technicolor images, still lifes, black and white, stock shots, collages … a lot of the singles didn’t even have the title on them … it was all about creating an artefact … but everything I did was anchored by that logo.”
Cannon, a Leeds Poly graphics graduate, was responsible for all official Oasis record release-related imagery and UK promotional material throughout the 1990s. He was a stickler for ‘real’ images, so almost no digital tinkering was used on any of the Oasis visuals.
He also worked closely with The Verve, after meeting 18-year-old A-level student Richard Ashcroft at a house party in Wigan in the late 1980s. In more recent years, Cannon has been documenting the Northern Soul scene in the UK and abroad, and has amassed an astonishing portfolio of over 25,000 black-and-white reportage photographs.
Many thanks to Brian for his time and help in putting this post together.
Brian Cannon’s Microdot Creative archive and shop — www.microdotcreative.co.uk.
‘Oasis – The Stories Behind Their Cryptic Album And Single Sleeve Art’, NME, 18 August 2015.
‘Brian Cannon on designing sleeve art’, on the Oasis Recording Information website.