The story of NOW is a story of how the music business was turned on its head. In November 1983, a new, 30-track compilation album was released. Each track was a UK hit single from that year, and was a collaboration between two record labels - EMI Records and Virgin Records.
The album went to number one in the album chart and, with three regular releases every year since, and many offshoot albums, including NOW Dance and NOW That's What I Call Christmas, it's a firm favourite across the generations. In fact, even today, NOW albums defy market expectations - in 2016, NOW That's What I Call Music 93 sold 247,000 copies in a single week, outselling David Bowie's Blackstar by around 100,000 copies. Over 120 million copies of NOW albums have been sold in the UK alone since that first release.
"My favourites are still the early years albums - especially NOW 10 - the neon sign was built especially for the album shoot and is now in some record exec's home - the NOW 12 photo shoot in a private pool and NOW 15 photoshoot on the Beach …. but I would, because Dave Wharin, Founder, QD I created them!"
QD has designed cover artwork for the NOW series since the 8th album in the 1980s. Part of the Soho creative scene, QD already had a reputation for going the extra mile in creativity and delivery, and the team managing the new compilation range knew they needed a design that was iconic and eye-catching.
That's what QD delivered then, with a mixture of clever ideas, daring photography and great production skills - and it's what we do now with the latest in digital design tools. The NOW brand is iconic and global and record companies still trust QD to deliver the goods.
"We use sophisticated 3D-rendering programmes to create cutting-edge designs for
the NOW range. These let us render super-realistic models, which we then run through
post-production. This lets us replicate the design impeccably across all sorts of different media - from bus shelter adverts to Facebook advertising banners."
Ben Wharin, Managing Director, QD
Most recently - over the past two years from concept to reality, in fact - QD has been the creative lead for the NOW centenary celebrations. NOW That's What I Call Music 100 is a remarkable moment in music history, and QD is right in the middle of the action, producing not just one album cover, but several, alongside point of sale design, adverts and other merchandising.
Being at the heart of a project like NOW is a great opportunity. The team knows that each new cover needs an in-your-face, eye-catching brand that would pass the test of time. Over the years, they have gone to some extraordinary lengths to get the effect they wanted. And it's worked - an ITV show to celebrate 30 years of NOW showed celebrities and singers with their favourite NOW albums, along with all the music nostalgia they evoke.
"My favourite retro cover is NOW 13, with the spaceship - I love Sci-fi! And my favourite modern cover is NOW 84. I really enjoyed creating the bunnies on that cover, which were based on vinyl toys. It took a while to win the client over to that, but I did it in the end!" Gary Debique, Senior Designer and current NOW lead designer
In the studio
What's the secret? QD is absolutely trusted to deliver fresh new creative designs for NOW every single time. Our creatives have formed close partnerships with the NOW team and they know we will deliver the look and feel they want. What's more, we don't stop at the album cover - we work on everything from in-store promotions to special edition covers, including those for overseas markets like South Africa, Canada and the USA, and we use the latest design techniques to keep those covers ahead of the game - without losing that special feel that makes NOW owners hold onto their albums forever.
"QD and Gary in recent years has created a house style which is picked up by the audience as both nostalgic and engaging, with appeal to all NOW audiences. Constantly refreshing and modernising this core logo has kept the releases and the brand at the forefront of the UK pop market for the intervening 27 years…
QD also design all the outdoor materials as well as the striking point of sale material for the numbered NOW releases. As a result of this brand impact and consistency, NOW enjoys levels of brand awareness and recognition at the highest end of any research data >90% and attracts many imitators."
Steven Pritchard, Co-Managing Director of NOW Music