Thursday, 12:48pm
19 August 2010

Barbara Wojirsch: Eyes and ears

A rare glimpse of the art and craft behind ECM’s visual identity

Adrian Shaughnessy’s article ‘One man brand’ in Eye 76, the Music design special issue, is about the graphic design and identity of Manfred Eicher’s music label ECM. (Spreads belowfull article on the Eye website.)



Adrian has written about ECM for us before: the influential feature ‘Think of your ears as eyes’ (Eye 16) and a review of Mayo Bucher’s Open Sign in Eye 45.

Barbara Wojirsch

Recently, Dan Hill alerted Adrian (who then alerted us) to a rare TV clip Barbara Wojirsch (above), one of ECM’s most celebrated designers, at work in her studio in the late 1980s (below). Her segment starts around 4'40".

Watch right to the end and you’ll catch a glimpse of Deiter Rehm (left) discussing artwork with Eicher (below).

Screen shot 2010-08-11 at 23.16.25

There’s also a revealing interview with Eicher (below), where he briefly talks to critic Gary Giddins about the look of his label, the use of uncoated stock for the Sun Bear Concerts packaging and the Gertrude Stein leitmotif ‘Think of your ears as eyes.’

Eicher says that design is, ‘only the envelope of the given … it’s not as important as the content. From the very beginning I was very much inspired by a friend of mine, Burkhart Wojirsch [Barbara’s late husband] … we had a very reduced concept for covers … I liked Frutiger and the Bauhaus … so we developed something slowly, but it was not the most important thing. The most important thing is the music.’

Rob Giampietro wrote about this interview on his Lined & Unlined blog. Rob, who is also a pianist, recalls his impressions of the Sun Bear Concerts: ‘The Tokyo concert’s meditative second section continues to be one of the most remarkably evocative things I’ve ever heard on the piano – play it, and you’ll no doubt see the rain falling.’

Here are a few more more examples of ECM cover art.


Above: design by Barbara Wojirsch, 1986. Artwork: Eduard Micus

Below: design by Barbara Wojirsch, 1990.



Above: design by Barbara Wojirsch, 1984

Art Ensemble / ECM

Below: back cover of Art Ensemble of Chicago LP Nice Guys featured in Eye 76. Design by Barbara Wojirsch, 1979.

See also Windfall Light: The Visual Language of ECM (Lars Müller, 2010) a new collection of ECM cover art (below).

Windfall Light

Eye magazine is available from all good design bookshops and at the online Eye shop, where you can order subscriptions, single issues and back issues.

The summer issue, 76, out now, is a music special – full contents here, and you can see a selection of visual details on Eye Before You Buy on Issuu.

Student subscriptions are half price, see