Talking Jazz Box Set Swings
By Kate Bertrand Connolly

Limited edition packaging positions CD set as a must-have for jazz aficionados.
Ben Sidran, a jazz pianist, producer and journalist, knew he had something special in the interviews he conducted with leading jazz figures in the 1980s for his award-winning NPR program, Sidran on Record.
Having recorded more than 100 conversations with such greats as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis, Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner, Max Roach and Art Blakey, Sidran knew the conversations were too important, both culturally and historically, to be locked away.
So he pared the interviews down to 60 selections, recorded them on 24 CDs and packaged them with an 80-page booklet as a box set. Called Talking Jazz, the set launched last December.
The challenge in packaging Talking Jazz was unique. The set was a high-end offering, priced at $249, and it targeted a small niche of ultra-passionate jazz fans, which eliminated the feasibility of mass production. Sidran needed a limited edition package that would appeal to jazz lovers, communicate the product’s value and also be cost effective.
Also, because the catalog of Mosaic Records—a specialist jazz record label—would be a significant sales channel for the product, the box set’s look and feel needed to mesh with Mosaic’s signature black-and-white graphics.
To develop the packaging, Sidran enlisted Planet Propaganda, a design, advertising and interactive company based in Madison, Wis.
“The packaging needed to be very substantial, interesting and unique. We wanted it to become a collector’s item,” says Greg Wold, brand manager at Planet Propaganda and, coincidently, a jazz musician. “We wanted to think about this almost as a historic relic.”
As a result, the package structure is robust, with a series of rigid paperboard components that are designed to open sequentially to provide access to the CDs and booklet. The box holding the media is covered with a friction-fit lid, and the covered box slides into a boldly printed slip case.
“Anything where there’s an interlocking system or a couple of steps to get into the package builds anticipation and makes [the product] a little more precious,” says Wold. “There is a sense of revealing things.”
The slip case and box were offset printed as flat sheets of paper, treated with a matte laminate and then wrapped around heavy-caliber chipboard. Striking black-and-white photos of Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins, by noted jazz photographer Lee Tanner, are printed on the slip case.
A pattern of diagonal lines on the slip case and box lid, applied using spot ultraviolet gloss, add visual interest and tactile appeal. The interiors of the slip case and inner box are black—another upscale touch.
Adding to the limited edition presentation—only 1,000 box sets were created—and supporting the product’s premium pricing, the box lid includes a white strip where Sidran signs and numbers each box set. “We wanted to treat it like a piece of art,” Wold explains.
Inside the box, the CDs are individually packaged in sleeves made from heavy weight cardstock treated with a matte laminate. The sleeves provide multiple benefits, including lower cost than plastic jewel cases, ease of use and a compact format.
On the exterior, the sleeves are color coded by instrument and also numbered and printed with the disc’s interview subjects. The sleeves are offset-printed in black and one PMS color, with the interior printed black.
Graphically, the package design complements Mosaic’s Record’s distinctive packaging. But certain touches, including the brick-red band surrounding the box’s slip case and the baby blue of the box’s lid, differentiate Talking Jazz in Mosaic Record’s catalog of historic recordings.
The package’s visual style also pays tribute to the sophisticated graphics of Blue Note Records, an important jazz record label, evoking Blue Note’s rich legacy in jazz recordings that also reinforces the historic aspect of Talking Jazz.
The end result, Wold says, is a package design with “a sense of history and a sense of jazz.” 
Where to go for more information...
Package design and brand strategy. At Planet Propaganda, contact Rob Sax at or 608.256.0000.