There are many troublesome elements in packaging design, but without restriction us designers wouldn’t be necessary. In today’s music industry there are all sorts of parental warnings, codes, logos, icons and legal jibber jabber that we must organize to work with our designs. Over the years I have found that photographer, illustrator & designer Paul Romano does this exceedingly well. He has designed the packaging for several prominent heavy metal bands (as well as others) including my favorite band Mastodon. I contacted Mr. Romano a couple of years ago about the exceptional barcode design he did for Mastodon’s Leviathan, a concept album about Moby Dick. To my surprise he responded the very next day.

(Mastodon, Leviathan back cover by Paul Romano that inspired me)

This is the email to Paul Romano from Feb 28, 2006:

I would just like to say that the work that you do for Mastodon has been very inspiring for me. I am a pre-graphic design student at CSU Long Beach and I just can’t get enough of the work you do. I love Mastodon’s music and the look you have created for them is fantastic. Your graphic shapes are sick and the photos and illustrations you use are terrific. Your integration of the barcode into the packaging design gave me a whole new way to look at once burdensome elements of packaging. Anyways…keep up the good work.

Zac Calbert

<——————————{RAMONO’S RESPONSE}——————————>

Hey Zac,

Thank you very much. I am currently working on the upcoming Mastodon record (and a bunch more). The photos and illustrations are actually all taken and painted by me as well. It is very rare that I use stock photography. I mostly concentrated on fine art through out my life. The principals are the same, shape, composition, color, texture.

Yeah, those barcodes. I hate them so I try to find a way to incorporate them. It was really important where the white was placed on Leviathan. So it had to be the whale. I think my favorite barcode is still the one I did for Nasum; stretched with a devil’s face amongst the bars. I am not looking forward to that very burdensome FBI warning that is on so many releases now. I am sure it will have to be on this next Mastodon.

What is pre-graphic design? Do they make you take courses in many disciplines, drawing, 3 dimensional design etc.? Thanks again, feel free to write anytime. My responses are a bit slow, I keep myself a little too busy.


(Nasum, Helvete back tray by Paul Romano that he mentioned)

Here are some other interesting barcode treatments Romano did:

(A Life Once Lost, Hunter back tray by Paul Romano)

(Turmoil, Staring Back back tray by Paul Romano)

The whole reason this exchange popped into my head was because I noticed the unusual barcode for Kaboom energy juice. It was a person climbing up the barcode like a mountain. It is a great element to express “this is an all natural energy juice, it’s healthy, not a sugary soda! Drink me and go do active, outdoorsy, hippie stuff!” Take a look:

This caused me to search the web a bit and upon further browsing I found Barcode Revolution which I believe is a joint venture with a Japanese packaging company. They have all sorts of interesting barcode solutions. Many of them are kind of static, but there are a terrific step in designing burdensome, necessary elements. Here is some of their work:

This just goes to show that there is almost always a way to make things just a little more interesting and fit with your design. Good luck.

Here are some barcode art sites you should check out: