There are two awards that usually honor K-Pop album designs: the ‘Red Dot Design Award’ and the ‘iF Design Award’ – and both are dubbed the ‘Oscars of design’. Apart from 7 albums of K-Pop girl groups that have won these awards, there are 15 albums from K-Pop boy groups that have also been awarded for their aesthetics, unique concepts and pioneering designs.
All most all of the awarded albums belong to boy groups from the ‘Big 3’ companies (SM, YG, JYP) and Big Hit. Let’s take a look.
2PM – NO.5
2PM’s album ‘No.5’ was designed by ACE Group. This is one of the very unique K-Pop albums with an embossed image of a door and a password button to unlock. In 2016, this album was awarded an ‘iF Design Award’.
EPIK HIGH – FEAST
This is an album designed by YG Entertainment’s own team. The Epik High’s album is based on the concept of ‘Feast’ with the shape of a luxury food box and an accompanying menu. Thanks to this unique and sophisticated design, the album was awarded an ‘iF Design Award’ in 2016.
EPIK HIGH – SHOEBOX
Another album by Epik High through the creation of YG Entertainment’s team. The album ‘Shoebox’ is appreciated for its beautiful and poetic design, from the color scheme to hand-drawn pictures. The album also received a 2016 ‘iF Design Award’.
SUPER JUNIOR – THIS IS LOVE
Super Junior‘s ‘This Is Love’ is one of the pioneering albums that create the trend of “one letter each version”, which when combined will form the album title. The cover of each version is selected by each member according to their liking, so it has a bold personal impression. However, when combined, it becomes a perfect unity. This album received an ‘iF Design Award’ in 2016.
SUPER JUNIOR – MR.SIMPLE
This is probably one of the albums that E.L.F (Super Junior’s fandom) and even K-Pop gen 2 fans cannot forget. It has a very large size: 30×30 cm, 10 posters of the same size, a CD and a leaflet of lyrics. SM Entertainment also admitted that this is the album with the ‘most expensive printing material’ out of all the company’s albums. In addition, the cover image is also extremely colorful with funky and retro concepts. This impressive design was honored at the 2014 ‘Red Dot Design Award’.
TAEYANG – RISE
Another product from YG Entertainment’s design team. BIGBANG Taeyang’s ‘Rise’ album was praised for its delicate beauty when using the image of an eclipse, sun and moon to express the male singer’s musical concept. This album was awarded a 2016 ‘iF Design Award’.
SHINee – SHERLOCK
SHINee‘s ‘Sherlock’ album has 5 versions with 5 completely different simulated images that evoke a sense of curiosity. In addition, the eye catching detail is probably the photos showing the ‘hot’ bodies of the 4 members (except Onew). In 2014, this album was awarded a ‘Red Dot Design Award’.
SHINee – THE MISCONCEPTION OF YOU, ME, US
Maybe you didn’t know that the cover photo of ‘The Misconceptions of You, Me, Us’ is a work drawn by SHINee Key himself. This unique image made a strong impression on viewers, and correctly reflected the musical concept that the group pursued at that time. In addition, there are also other unique pictures inside. This design helped SHINee receive an award at the 2014 ‘Red Dot Design Award’.
WINNER – 2014 S / S
WINNER’s ‘2014 S / S’ album was designed by the YG Entertainment’s team led by the famous creative director SINXITY. The album is designed under a minimalist concept with black and white tones but still clearly shows the group’s musical concept. This luxurious, smooth design was awarded at the 2015 ‘Red Dot Design Award’.
GOT7 – Just Right
This is one of GOT7‘s most outstanding albums with vibrant neon colors combined with sharp geometrical patterns. Many people have commented that this is a lovely album and very attractive to the eye. In 2016, the album ‘Just Right’ designed by ACE Group was honored at the ‘iF Design Award’.
GOT7 – MAD
Instead of ACE Group as usual, JYP gave the creative right of GOT7’s ‘Mad’ album to Hable Studio. The album has two versions with stylized typography: One represents embarrassed emotions, the other shows angry feelings. This album went on to be awarded at the 2016 ‘iF Design Award’.
EXO – MIRACLES IN DECEMBER
‘Miracles in December’ is a beautifully designed album that is no less than a Christmas gift box. The most creative idea was to have EXO’s 12 members form a Christmas tree and then emboss it on the album’s cover. In 2016, this album won an ‘iF Design Award’.
EXO – XOXO
This is another breakthrough idea coming from the design team of SM Entertainment. EXO‘s ‘XOXO’ album was designed in an “alien” concept based on a school notebook containing the members’ yearbook photos. This is an album that won 2 design awards in 2014, both the ‘Red Dot Design Award’ and the ‘iF Design Award’.
EXO – MAMA
EXO has 3 albums named on this list. The third album to be praised for their design is ‘MAMA’, which was also designed by the SM team. Contrary to other elaborate album designs, this album focuses on minimalism with white and black tones and a hexagonal layout – which was also the group’s logo at the time. This album was awarded at the 2014 ‘Red Dot Design Award’.
BTS – LOVE YOURSELF: HER, TEAR & ANSWER
Recently, BTS‘ ‘Love Yourself’ album series including ‘Her’, ‘Tear’ and ‘Answer’ were honored at the ‘Red Dot Design Award’ for their creative and impressive designs, which came from the HuskyFox team. According to design experts, this album is made in a minimal style with only seamless curves forming linked shapes. The minimal but subtle design is very highly recommended in the design industry, and thanks to that, ‘Love Yourself: Tear’ even received a nomination at the Grammy Award for ‘Best Recording Package’ in 2018.
Out of the above album designs, which one do you find most impressive and beautiful? Please share your opinion.