Album Cover Bank

Design, Project Management
Album Cover Bank is an archive of Nigerian album covers from the 1950s to date. It currently has over 5,000 covers, and it provides a unique and comprehensive view of the evolution of Nigerian album art. The project first began as an exploration of the relationship between graphic trends in Nigerian pop culture and their influence on Nigerian music throughout the years.

However, during our desk research, we realized that the initial idea was too broad, so we narrowed our focus to curating a database of Nigerian album cover art in other to preserve their work.
Album Cover Bank Cover Image
Project Goal
Album cover designers play a crucial role in shaping the visual identity of a musical body of work. Unfortunately, Nigerian music artists often do not acknowledge the designers who contribute to their album covers. Therefore, the aim of the project was to create a functional and user-friendly database, acting as an online portfolio for these designers, with the purpose of preserving their work.
My Role
I contributed to this project by designing the brand elements and website interface for both mobile and desktop screens. Additionally, I managed the project and the team involved in it, overseeing the entire process from ideation to execution.

This project kicked off while I was working as a Production Assistant at wuruwuru (legally known as Helterskelter Publishing House), a community studio based in Lagos, Nigeria.
Eseosa curated most of the covers on the site with assistance from Jessica, and she also established the guidelines for the information we archived about the covers. As the studio got better at collaborating with people from diverse backgrounds, we brought in Emmanuel, a Data Analyst, to populate the database and verify the accuracy of the information sitting on it.

We chose Airtable for the database because of its versatile data storage and display capabilities. However, the Airtable website design had room for improvement and presented some usability challenges.
During that period, the studio was occupied with other projects, and we couldn't make out time to properly ideate the project. In response, Ope proposed the idea of hosting a contest for creatives to submit ideas on how to enhance the database's usability and browsing experience. We sent out a tweet and 4 people (One designer and three writers) responded to the form in the tweet with a pitch.

We set up a group call with the contestants to kick off the project, and the outcome of the call was that I’ll pair up with Idris, the designer, to build the project and create an operation plan to help guide everyone on what the final outcome of the project should look like.

Design and Development

Idris designed the brand elements like the logo, typography and colour selection, while I gave him feedback on what could be done better to deliver a higher quality of work. I used the brand logo he designed to create a loading icon for the site.
Album Cover Bank Logo Animation
Loading Icon
We continued our close collaboration on the website design, developing wireframes and designing multiple iterations to shape the appearance and functionality of a user-friendly archive of album covers.
Screenshot of a discarded home page design Screenshot of a discarded cover page design
Screens that did not make the final cut
Unfortunately, those functionalities pictured above had to be omitted from the deployed version due to limitations in technical capabilities and budget. We lacked the means to connect the Airtable database to a custom website, so we transitioned to an open-source approach, partnering with an engineer seeking to expand their portfolio.

Lina volunteered to take it on, she partnered with Toyosi to build the website from scratch using React, SCSS, GitHub and Airtable’s API Document.
Although Airtable was very efficient for organizing and displaying data, it definitely wasn’t the best tool to use as a third-party database for a project of this magnitude. There were some challenges with how Airtable handled API calls; it processed only 100 data sets at a time, clearing each set before moving on to the next 100. This was problematic for the project because it involved displaying a large amount of data (over 5,000 covers).

Lina and I found this to be quite frustrating because we had come too far to change our database tool, so we consulted Tomi, who has experience with using Airtable as a third-party database for building websites. He acknowledged that the amount of data we were trying to display was too much for Airtable to handle, so he suggested two different methods to address this:

- Pre-load all the data onto the site when it loads to avoid frequent API calls. However, this approach could slow down the site. Alternatively;
-Transfer the data to a simpler database like Google Sheets. The downside here is that we’d lose some of Airtable’s visual power on the database end.

Lina eventually figured out how to pre-load the data on the site without slowing down its speed, but it came at the cost of making numerous design changes to the site like; displaying the covers in an overlay screen, switching from pagination to an infinite scroll, taking out the total number of covers on the database…
- Documentation is very necessary, and it’s the main reason we were able to keep track, communicate effectively and launch the project.
- The project taught me how crucial it is to cultivate innovation. We had to change directions at different points, and my ability to keep iterating made every transition smooth.
- Managing the people involved in the project improved my communication skills and work ethic when collaborating with others. It was a bittersweet feeling to fully shoulder the responsibility for the project's successful launch
What the future of Album Cover Bank looks like:
I envision the Album Cover Bank evolving into an online portfolio that prominently showcases the remarkable work of cover designers in Nigeria. The project is dedicated to preserving their artistic contributions, and we’re committed to refining our design and enhancing the website’s functionality with better engineering.

Want to work together?
Send me and email!