Some of these bands were notoriously ill-behaved during their heyday. But they’re exhibiting model behavior on redesigned classic album covers that exhibit social distancing best practices: all the band members are six feet apart.
Beto Fernandez and Paco Conde, founders of Los Angeles-based agency Activista, found themselves with some time on their hands after California issued a “safer at home” order last week to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Even though people were told to stay home except for essential errands, Fernandez and Conde saw large groups in parks, at beaches, and in grocery stores. Social distancing guidelines didn’t seem to be getting across, so the duo started working on a personal project called “6 Feet Covers.”
“We decided that iconic album covers would be a great and simple visual solution,” Fernandez and Conde explain over email. Updating images that already resonate in popular culture would give people an easy entry point to understanding what was meant by social distancing.
Fernandez and Conde redesigned 16 iconic album covers, including Bookends by Simon & Garfunkel, Abbey Road by the Beatles, Queen II by Queen, Destroyer by Kiss, Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, Highway to Hell by AC/DC, Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A., and Anthology by the Ramones.
Since some covers were originally close-ups on the band members’ faces, Fernandez and Conde had to reimagine how the full bodies would look when everyone was spread out.
Fernandez and Conde researched apparel trends and sourced alternative references that showed what musicians wore to their photo shoots to make a “totally authentic” re-creation. Two such examples: they found outtakes from the Highway to Hell and Surfer Girl shoots in order to photoshop in the bodies of some band members, and relied on contemporaneous clothing references to completely rebuild some band members for Wild Plane by the B-52s.
Of all the redesigns, Abbey Road is one of the duo’s favorite compositions. Rather than all four Beatles being in the crosswalk together, they’re now spread out down the road. “It’s such an important album and the cover is super iconic,” says Fernandez, “but also the photo really helps create drama around social distancing, which is what we needed.”
Plus, using pop culture as the delivery mechanism is a more positive way to communicate the importance of social distancing, especially if looking at coronavirus news leaves you feeling anxious and uncertain. “Social feeds are suddenly full of sad and scary news, so we thought we should do something more lighthearted and fun, while still keeping the importance of the message,” explains Fernandez.
For now, the reimagined album covers live on the project’s website, but the duo said they see it as an ongoing project and hope to keep adding to it.
“Using iconic images that have been so important and relevant in people’s lives is a great tool to bring this topic to the spotlight, visualizing what six feet actually looks like and getting people to talk about it,” says Fernandez.
It also shows the ingenuity of designers in finding creative ways to communicate a point. If only the members of Fleetwood Mac actually had stayed that far apart in real life. There would have been a lot less drama.