Vibrant IBM Research Wafer Album Covers

While artificial intelligence is all the rage today, few people think about the mind-bogglingly intricate computer chips that make these AI miracles possible. Even fewer recognize them for the marvelously complex works of art they are.

Designers Carl De Torres and Francesco Muzzi of StoryTK and our friends at Hemlock Printers (projects / website ) teamed up to create packaging that celebrates these IBM Research chips, or “wafers,” as the rockstars they truly are. In so doing, they also used a clever technique that all sharp designers will want to make their own.

Noticing that the 300 mm square (roughly 12-x-12 inch) dimensions of the wafers bring to mind vinyl LPs, the designers decided to create album jackets for each, complete with “liner notes.” This is accomplished with a series of infographics that not only explain how each technology works, but why it matters. (The albums are used onsite at IBM Research labs to showcase the wafers when clients visit but are not otherwise distributed for promotional purposes.)

Two sheets of 18 pt. C1S (coated-one-side) Clearwater Paper Candesce were pre-printed and then duplex laminated for extra thickness to best protect the delicate 1 mm thick wafer inside, while the super-tight pocket that holds it in place was die cut and taped on.

The 1980s-like artwork on each cover is directly inspired by the technology or capabilities demonstrated by the wafer within and features abstract representations of such concepts as 3D integration and AI training. The album art was printed offset UV using 6 Pantone colors in all, each package featuring a combination of Metallic and Fluorescent inks; the latter being super-trendy right now.

The colors were designed to be overprinted in such a way as to achieve color combinations you could never replicate in the digital world. Mixing Neon and Metallic inks can be tricky on press, but the result, as you can see, is very bold. In other words not at all what you’d expect to see in packaging for computer components.

Now here’s the really clever part: Rather than adding a label to each album, Hemlock covered the sheets with a very glossy, scuff-free laminate, then went back on press to print a special coating patch on top of the lamination, making this area feel like a uncoated label.

This contrast between the writing area and the rest of the piece is so great, it makes the “label” appear tipped on – a nice little trick well worth adding to your own designer’s toolbox!

While these handsome covers make the latest computer hardware look like the hottest thing in music, make no mistake, it’s the printer and designers who are the rockstars here.


Project Details

Title IBM Research Wafer Album Covers Client IBM Date October 2022 Design StoryTK (Carl De Torres and Francesco Muzzi) Print Hemlock Printers Paper Clearwater Paper Candesce C1S 18 pt.

Production Details

Dimensions 12” x 12” Print Quantity 800 Printing Method UV Offset Number of Colors 6 Finishing and Binding Die cutting, Lamination

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