We get various comments and thoughts about the artwork used for each Axtone release. There was an obvious interest there, so we opened the floor and invited questions for the man behind these creations, 38 year old Jens Grönberg. His company Breakfast Design is based in Ystad in southern Sweden and works on a variety of projects, from children’s books to album artwork, logos, branding and anything else that may come in and appeals to them. When we asked Jens where he studied, we were surprised to learn in terms of graphic design and illustration he’s self taught.
We received various questions online, some individual, some similar, so we combined the similar ones to leave room for more questions to be answered. We also added in some of our own, based on things we thought you might find of interest.
How did you start working with Axtone Records as their designer?
Axwell and l lived in the same neighborhood in our early teens. We were both really into computers, and I guess thats’s how we got to know each other. While he was doing music on his Amiga, I was struggling with pixels in Deluxe Paint on my 286 PC. When his music career eventually caught on, he asked me to do his artworks and logos.
There’s some pretty crazy designs for Axtone releases, where does your inspiration come from?
(Question from Robert LonVelin and Zachary Gilbride)
As a kid, I watched TV, alot. When it came to sci-fi, I always preferred movies that had some sort of connection to the “real world”, over the ones that were completely fictional. I still find myself daydreaming about classics like:
- “The Last Starfighter” (Trailer park kid plays arcade game, and gets picked to join alien defence force)
- “Westworld” (A robot malfunction creates havoc and terror for unsuspecting vacationers at a futuristic, adult-themed amusement park)
- “Ulysse 31″, (The brilliant Frech-Japanese animated series from the early 80′s) A must watch!
So, short answer, I watched a lot of TV as a kid..
What’s your creative process for the Axtone artworks?
(Question from Musart Finn and Lewis Benfield)
I get the track name from James or Simon at Axtone. They’ll say something like ”…so, we have this track coming up called “It’s Over”,maybe you could try and come up with something for that”. So I start thinking about the title. Do a few google searches, look through some magazines and I’ll end up with a couple of rough sketches that I think have some connection (not too obvious though) to the title. I talk to my sidekick Fredrik Möller who does all the typography and explain my ideas…he looks at the stuff I’ve come up with and will help me narrow it down further. Then Fred will say something like “I like this one the most, but only if you extend the sky by 50% or else the text won’t look good”.
Then I have a rough concept, with typography and the axtone look that I send to Axwell. If I’m lucky, he likes it and I will then start rebuilding from scratch, create high res components, make 3D models, and buy the rights to the photo parts we use. When the artwork is finished and approved, Fredrik will create the insane amounts of different banners and backgrounds needed for every release. This ensures a synchronised theme is continuous across all online platforms.
Does Axwell have any creative input or get involved in the design at any stage?
Yes, he’s always the first one to see my ideas, and if he doesn’t like it I’ll try something else. Ax is very interested in how well the artwork fits the mood of the track. One thing that I’ve always appreciated when working with Ax is that over the years he has never tried to rush me in the creative process in any way. He expects me to deliver top stuff, work hard and that’s what I try to do.
What do you like about working for Axtone Records?
For me as a designer, it’s fantastic to work for a label that cares so much about how things look. It’s great!
What software and font do you use? Do you use c4d, Photoshop, Illustrator?
(Question from Marko Stanojevic, Luca Biondi, Giovanni Zurlo, Tomas-Kristoffer Wergeland Ruud, Dante Ney, Bernardo Farina de Liz, @_Kyle_Stew_ and @serg1n)
Photoshop is the main tool for the Axtone artwork. For 3D components I use 3D studio and Illustrator for logos etc. Helvetica is the font for everything Axtone.
Why are you so good?
(Question from Alexandre Gesnot)
Not sure what to say to that, other than thanks a lot!
In terms of where I’ve learn’t this stuff, I’m an illustrator at heart. When I don’t do artwork for Axtone, I draw children’s books etc, so I do a lot of freehand drawing. That’s a great asset when you quickly want to show someone an idea you have. When I was 20 I got a job as a trainee at a place that did really high end digital retouching. I couldn’t beleive the things they did there, removing whole cars from photos and painting zebra stripes on a rhino. They taught me Photoshop inside out. I think the combination of genuine drawing skills and photoshop is invaluable and quite rare. Add to that some basic 3D skills and you’ve got a pretty good combo.
Why is a border used on the artwork, does it make it look better somehow?
(Question from Nícolas Rusch Karnopp)
You know what, that’s something that we came up with when we still made vinyls. We like how the white border frames the artwork and how it helps tie the releases together. Since the first time we used the border it has just stayed with us. Who knows when and if we’ll let go of it.
What was the hardest artwork to make? What is your favorite artwork you’ve made?
(Question from James Davis)
I think the last couple of designs have worked out really well. There’s something about “Sunrise”, that I really like. I think it has something to do with what I wrote earlier about liking when it’s fiction and not fiction at the same time. Rasputin is probably the one that has taken the longest to make. Many hours in photoshop on that one, well worth it though as I really like how it came out.
How long did it take to conceptualize the iconic axtone logo?
(Question from Alexander Garcia Åhgren)
Well, this is how it went down..
I sent Ax one idea after another. He just got back to me saying ”Nooo!” and even “absolutely not!!!”, so I kinda lost the spark and stopped sending new ideas.
Then one day he emails me a logo-sketch that HE!? made! It looked like it was drawn by a 5 year old. To be fair though, it had a strong A followed by “xtone”. I was kinda pissed that I had come up with so many great ideas, and then he just sends me this shit..
So I decided to try and make his ROUGH sketch look really good, thus demonstrating my extreme level of skillz! So I put together what is now the famous Axtone logo, and sent it off to Ax, who quickly replied “Perfect! I guess I should have gotten more involved in the process earlier…”
Rasputin is the latest release you designed and we all know ‘Rasputin’ is an infamous Russian historical figure – where does a space man fit in? Was it inspired by the 1957 Sputnik? Is it connected to the astronaut from Sing2Me?
(Question from @OS_ID and Julian Hütter)
Well, I just thought it would be too easy to have the long bearded Rasputin on the cover. Then I watched the old Planet Of The Apes a while back, and the classic ending where he sees the Statue of Liberty and realises that they’re actually back on planet earth, gave me this idea. It has no connection to Sing2Me, other than they’re both obviously from the Axtone world. Fun fact about sing2me though, when I first showed the Sing2Me artwork to Thomas Gold, for some reason, he didn’t like the guy in the astronaut helmet. So I ended up replacing him with an image of my partner Jenny’s head.
Where did they get the “Wakanda” picture from?
(Question from Zsolt Anderlik)
From some online image bank. The original photo is quite different though, and much bigger. We obviously used just the head, and changed some of the detalis. This artwork was actually quite hard to come up with an idea for. But when I found this guy, I knew I had it!
Are you human?
(Question from David Lauenstein)
I’m afraid so, however, if I could be an an animal, I would wanna be a
goose, since I’ve heard their feathers make great pens.
To keep up to date with all the Breakfast Design work and behind the scenes snaps check them out over on their Facebook Page .