Mitski’s The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We

Design for Mitski’s 7th studio album, The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We, released on September 15, 2023. The album has been described as “some of the most surreal, existential, and fascinating songs of Mitski’s career“ (Cat Zhang, Pitchfork)

Collaboration with Mitski. 
Photography Ebru Yildiz.
Typeface “Ready” by Plain Form and “Tofino” by Alanna Munro
All photos below with red background by Anna Powell Denton.

This process began with Ebru’s photographs (hundreds) and a playlist (normal size). Together they sparked a lot of ideas: dirt, dust, archaeological dig sites, mythology of “the road”, property, grids, weaving, and I became very interested in a Walker Evans photograph of a billboard. Some highlights from my notes include “a big stick” “fences” and “hand as land” — it all makes sense in the end, right?

For the typography, I wanted to express the idea of “unruly and free”, like the idea of the American Old West. Ready Active by Plain Form fit my vision of what “lawless typography” might be, and it follows that through in that it is always breaking the border of the image in the design. From the Ready specimen: "Ready does more than flirting with abstraction: it tips over into becoming pure shapes, only sprinkled with a few hints of our long-established and codified writing system.”

I spent a lot of time thinking about the album title, there are many ways the land and people are inhospitable—one literal thought I persued is the simple idea of the land rejecting a person walking on it, which conjured the image of shards poking out of the dirt. As the ocean erodes the land it reveals this physical evidence of the human experience—shards, bones, scraps of metal. The land is inhospitable because we made it inhospitable? The digital drawing of an early American jug (Weller pottery, 1872) became the formal representation of this, and as a graphic device helped carry the campaign across the many materials it demands.

The album package has two slip cases, one in aster pink and the other in robin egg blue. The pink slip is accompanied by a blue vinyl and the blue slip offers a pink vinyl. The peaceful nature of these hues is activated by an electrified orange*. Made even louder with a glossy spot, this hot orange functions as the molten core of the package with a full flood inside both slip cases. When the slip is empty, the two die cut shards on the cover light up like a freaky pollution sunset. Dark forest green functions as an alternative to black in an effort to respect the rich black of Ebru’s photo series. A sandy blush like the dry dirt kicked up in a dust storm grounds the rest of the artwork.

* Best viewed in person, the gamut for digital images does accomodate a color this hot!

Physical media with tactile embossing and hot and slick colors contrasting against Ebru’s intense images.

Label: Dead Oceans / Secretly (special thanks to Miles Johnson)
Management: Good Harbor (special thanks Tom Chiari & Ben Levin)

No Phone Day

Promotion for a performnce by artist Selby Cole

A poster and a postcard for the third activation of No Phone Day—a recurring project by artist Selby Cole—part of Limb Stories and Other Bodily Extensions, a two-person show with Ann Schnake and Selby Sohn. October 1– December 18, 2023 at Dream Farm Commons in Oakland, California.

Type: WonderType by Clémence Fontaine; Images: Tony Sebastian and @isco_me on Unsplash


Mitski’s Laurel Hell

Design for Mitski’s 6th studio album, Laurel Hell, select merch, and art direction for website, additional consulting on merch lines. Laurel Hell was released on February 4, 2022 and is categorized as synth-pop, indie pop and electro-rock.

In an interview with Variety, Mitski describes “Laurel Hell is a soundtrack for transformation, a map to the place where vulnerability and resilience, sorrow and delight, error and transcendence can all sit within our humanity, can all be seen as worthy of acknowledgment, and ultimately, love.”

Collaboration with Mitski. 
Photography Ebru Yildiz.
Typeface “Resolve” by Corinne Ang
All photos below with red background by Anna Powell Denton.

A line was drawn in response to each track on this album and is printed in shimmering (like “wet teeth, shining eyes”*) silver foil. These lines are, at the same time; lightening, evidence of a journey, and the tangled branches of a mountain laurel bush (so thick and overgrown you can’t escape it—the namesake of this record), and when layered with Yildiz’s photography portray an emotional state between agony and ecstasy. Upon opening the record package the silver marks reveal a complex and tangled map on which the lyrics coax a reader along a tumultuous personal journey.

Intentionally, a single photographic representation of Mitski is used for all the music packaging. Side A and B of the record label also feature Yildiz’s singlular image, on side A the portrait of Mitski is clear, while side B presents her likeness buried under a mess of laurel leaves.

As elegant as it is fierce, the typeface “Resolve” by Corinne Ang and was chosen for it’s attributes, as described “stubborn & grounded, not delicate nor fragile” and how it “reveals a bittersweet sharpness to accompany the everflowing swerving curves”. Practically, the typeface performs well at both very small and large sizes, and formally the expert craft reflects the quality of the music, writing and production on Laurel Hell.

*Valentine, Texas

Above: Primary record package design, red vinyl; black vinyl, triple button red and black vinyl

Above: CD package design

Above: variant CD slip case design: “stay” “soft” “get” and “eaten” reveal a new crop of Yildiz’s iconic portrait of the artist. 

Above: cassette package design: when closed, the track list and cassette title present opposing reading experiences — neither is right side up, hopefully frustrating the consumer 

Work includes:
—Vinyl Laurel Hell US
—Vinyl Laurel Hell UK (Rough Trade exclusive)
—Vinyl Stay Soft, Get Eaten: Laurel Hell Demos (Rough Trade exclusive)
—Vinyl variant specifications (all records world wide, standard retail variant, DTC exclusive, Secretly Society Album of the Month, Rough Trade album of the month, Vinyl Me Please, Japan, Mitski Store)

—Set of 4 limited edition CD slip cases

—Cassette tape

—Digital album cover (design optimised for for music platforms)
—Digital singles for Working for the Knife, The Only Heartbreaker, Heat Lightning, Love Me More
—Digital art for Love Me More (Clark Remix)

— Custom lettering and font for album art and website


—Series of 5 Mystery T’s
—Dust Devils shirt
—Secretly Shirt
—Commemorative dice set

Label: Dead Oceans / Secretly (special thanks to Miles Johnson)
Management: Good Harbor (special thanks Tommy John Chiari & Ben Levin) previously Salty (special thanks Chris Crowley)
Merch: Second City Prints (special thanks to Emily and Carly)

For Endless Thread (WBUR)


Digital art for a special podcast series from WBUR’s Endless Thread called MADNESS.

“MADNESS: The secret mission for mind control and the people who paid the price.”

Hundreds of people who were experimented on at the Allan Memorial Institute over the course of two decades are all connected to one man: Dr. Ewen Cameron. This podcasrt explores the dark history of Dr. Cameron, MK-ULTRA*, and examines the origins of Subproject 68: Dr. Ewen Cameron's experimentation on patients at the Allan Memorial Institute in Montreal.

*Project MKUltra (or MK-Ultra), also called the CIA mind control program, is the code name given to a program of experiments on human subjects that were designed and undertaken by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, some of which were illegal. Experiments on humans were intended to identify and develop drugs and procedures to be used in interrogations in order to weaken the individual and force confessions through mind control. The project was organized through the Office of Scientific Intelligence of the CIA and coordinated with the United States Army Biological Warfare Laboratories. — Wikipedia

About Endless Thread: Hosted by Ben Brock Johnson and Amory Sivertson and made by WBUR, Endless Thread, a podcast from WBUR and Reddit, delves into Reddit’s boundless communities with the help of Reddit and Redditors, exploring some of the most compelling stories the internet has to offer. This is a show for Reddit connoisseurs, skeptics, and the rest of us.

Special thanks to Ben Brock Johnson for the invitation.

Endless Thread identity

A new identity for WBUR’s Endless Thread podcast designed with Elena Foraker.

Animations by Mark Buenafe directly inspired by the end scene in the 1990’s computer game Microsoft Solitaire.

The type is a modified version of TINY by Jack Fahnestock.

About Endless Thread: Hosts Ben Brock Johnson and Amory Sivertson dig into the internet's vast and curious ecosystem of online communities to find untold histories, unsolved mysteries, and other jaw-dropping stories online and IRL.

contact: mary.banas (at)
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