Go With the Flow

Recently, I’ve been thinking…   The widespread acceptance of digital music has probably caused album artwork to become much less important since so much music is being bought electronically now.   And even of the CDs you might’ve physically purchased in the past few months, what was the last one you bought that featured a truly memorable cover design?   Can you even recall the what the album covers from the last 4 or 5 CDs you purchased looked like?

I believe that’s all about to change…

Cover Flow screen shot

Cover Flow, the 3-D interface that iTunes & the new iPod lineup features for visually browsing through your digital music libraries via album covers, was created by independent Mac developer Jonathan del Strother and purchased by Apple back in ’04.   It’s a gorgeous, intuitive, & fun way to peruse your music collection — almost exactly like flipping through stacks of vinyl LP record albums back in the old analog music days.

The more I see of the visually-stunning Cover Flow interface, I’m convinced that its popularity — thanks in no small part to Steve Jobs’ miraculous iPhone — will spark a revitalization of the previously-withering art of album cover design.   Since thumbing through your music collection’s cover art is the coolest way to find stuff on all of the new iPods (except the display-less iPod Shuffle), I think we’re about to see the visual aspect of music get a serious kick in the pants!

And I don’t think the impact of Cover Flow ends there.   No sir, not by a long shot!   Similarly-styled GUIs are going to spring up left & right — not the least of which is Leopard, or Mac OS X v10.5, the sixth major release of Apple’s Mac OS X operating system due out in October ’07.   It’s a safe bet that we’re seeing the next paradigm shift in user interfaces.

What do you think?   Will Cover Flow revitalize album cover design within the music industry?   And will it become as imitated as the iPod’s venerable click wheel?

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