I analyzed the cover of Jay Z’s critically acclaimed album, The Blueprint pictured below:
I chose this artwork because it one of my personal favorite Hip Hop albums of all time, and has has universal acclaim, including being listed at one of the 500 greatest albums of all time by Rolling Stone magazine. The album is claimed to have been written in 2 days, with the final cut completed within 2 weeks, and is credited to launching the career of Kanye West.
“The Blueprint’s album art was shot by legendary photographer Jonathan Mannion (who’s shot most of Jay-Z’s album covers), but it was inspired by a British photographer named Jocelyn Bain Hogg. The image is from Hogg’s 2001 collection “The Firm,” which was created after Hogg spent 10 years following British gangsters in South London.” (Source)
Using the Rule of Thirds, we can see how this image is composed. Jay Z is primary located on the left, the line going right through the middle of him. He commands the attention from the viewer in this position. The grid then neatly divides the remaining elements of the image into their respective quadrants.
We can see the tension in the overall balance of the composition below. I have colored Jay Z, the shoes and the ‘tools’ to try to show their respective visual ‘weight’. I also love how this image separates Jay Z from the group to the right, setting himself to be the boss, in a commanding position relative to the others, sitting next to his tools of the trade: a mic, cigars, an ashtray and a cigar cutter.
The visual hierarchy takes the user from the Jay Z’s figure to the actual words written above, followed by the shoes and the tools in the bottom right corner.
There are two fonts in this composition:
ITC Machine STD (modified to look original) – Source
Social Gothic (most accurate estimate based on What The Font)
Jay Zs name commands presence (as that is the stronger ‘brand’ compared to the album name) that consumers would recognize first strolling through the album isles (back when that was the thing to do). The album name is tucked away neatly, justified to the left underneath Jay Z’s name.
The color palette is very simple. What started out as a most likely black and white photo, the piece has been overlaid with a shade of blue, thus producing a sea of various shades of grays, blues and blacks.
The Hex number of Jay Z’s specific shade of blue that he likes using is #2E56A4 (source) — which later became a shade for a SUV he did in collaboration with General Motors. This composition seems to be tinted in that shade, which I’ve broken down below.
There is a fair bit of negative space, some utilized for text, but for the most part, left alone. They allow separation between the main elements of the composition, explained in the first section of this review, and allow the viewer to concentrate on Jay Z himself, separate from the group to the right, next to his tools of his trade.