graphics, Projects

The Girl In The Spotlight CD

Jon Lawrence has recorded a new CD, a little different from his more recent rootsy/rock stuff; this time, more formal, romantic and wistful. Jon came to me for a cover/package design with some clear ideas about where this could start from, namely those romantic paintings of aristocratic lovers and dancers by Jack Vettriano , black and white photographs of illicit lovers against a backdrop of a rainy Paris etc.

These are often seen as quite cheesy and schmaltzy images, but Jon also wanted to add a sense of mystery which I interpreted as unfamiliarity and a sense of unease, possible voyeuristic tendencies and secret inamorata. The first rough recordings confirmed some of the melancholia I expected in a set of love (or longing for love) songs, but also I began to understand Jons’ nod towards Vettriano ; these songs reference the qualities associated with the Art Deco era, with elegant, piano-led ballads, with period accompaniment on a crystal clear guitar and a lazy midnight sax. I was wrong about the sense of unease, but think I had a good handle on the rest.

To begin with, we needed to shoot some new images of Jon for inclusion in the booklet, as well as some of an elegant woman for the front cover; the eponymous ‘girl in the spotlight.’ I shot 49 images of Jon in total, all lit with a single spotlight (what else?)

These are a sample of the general direction of the shoot, and there were  many more that were blurred (intentionally as well as unintentionally!) very dark, or of the piano and Jon’s hands tickling the ivories. The model Jon had in mind was not available for this shoot and rescheduled, so I set to work with internet sourced imagery to get the ball rolling. I gave Jon a number of design approaches to get an early dialogue going:

After exploring some of the images which were all intended to be used monochrome, or close to, I also decided to pitch a couple of designs with Jon on the cover. Although he was quite certain tha he wanted a particular female model for the cover, I decided to try out a couple of general design approaches with them. He was immediately taken with the typography on the last design (bottom right) and suggested that the image was a good ‘back cover’ shot. The very slight sepia discolouration was generally approved of, as were the straight mono designs.  

I followed this with a shoot with the lovely Helen, who is not a ‘proper’ model, but did a stirling job for Jon here. She was very apprehensive about doing this, and obviously nervous, but as the shoot progressed, she relaxed and got into the spirit of things. 54 images were shot in total, a selection showing the direction below. I have been asked to show ‘all the photos’ but will sadly decline to preserve the honour of a lady!  Again, all these images were intended to be used monochrome, or with modifications.

The images were all processed through PhotoShop CS4 – greyscale and duotones with a pale beige supporting colour overlayed. A range of examples were experimented with, as were typographic variations. The typeface was one of about 5 chosen originally for their Art Deco qualities (without being overtly Deco). This is ITC Novarese:

It is a visually geometric face, with very sharp but delicate serifs with a rather flamboyant (by comparison to the roman) italic, as well as four good weights. By my reckoning, I last used this typeface in 1989…

You can see the general direction I was heading in here. All of the images have been distressed slightly; a dash of film grain here and there to begin to ‘break up’ the tones. I also added in a negative/slide frame to one or two images, to suggest a more remote relationship with the subject; the scrutinising of images puts the viewer in a much more deliberate voyeuristic context.

Jon was really happy with these and gave the go-ahead to apply this styling to the whole CD. Here are the final proofs beginning with the cover:

Pages 2 & 3:

Pages 4 & 5:

Pages 5 & 7 (centre spread):

Pages 8 & 9

Pages 10 & 11:

Page 12. This the back page of the booklet and the left hand ‘page’ as you open the CD case:

And the back cover:

And finally, the on-body design. Originally, there was another shot of Helen here, but both Jon and I thought it was a little too much, and that an image of Jon himself should be here.

Jons response to these was “best designs yet!” I’m happy with that as I have really enjoyed this project. It has been relatively straightforward in that nothing went dramatically wrong and there were no major changes or unforseen problems to solve, which doesn’t happen very often with any design job.  

So go buy one! It will make a great gift for valentines day – buy your copy here.


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