If you read my post last week about The Naming of Things you’ll remember that I held off on divulging the name of my album, instead presenting a list of potential names. I’m excited to reveal the name of album today. If you haven’t guessed it from the title of this post, the album is called “I Don’t Want to Be Your Friend,” and the CD release is on 8/25 in Philadelphia. I liked the double entendre of the name, how it evokes both humor and sadness, and the fact that it’s a jarring album title. It’s also a quote from one of the songs. Today, though, I want to talk less about the album and more about the design of the cover, because it took me the better part of a week to put it together. That might not seem like much time, but I’m not the strongest designer, so I was once again traveling through unfamiliar territory.
When I was deciding on album titles, I had pared it down to either “I Don’t Want to Be Your Friend,” or “To Entertain and Wow Us.” I knew at the time that whatever the cover art was going to be would determine which one I should choose, as well as the tone of the album. I was leaning towards the former title and was discussing it with my girlfriend Katie. I asked her what a graphical representation of “I Don’t Want to Be Your Friend” would look like, and at first we talked about a photo of my looking sullen, or a palm held up turning people away. We got a little more abstract, and that’s when she came up with the idea of the broken heart necklace, the kind that usually reads “Best Friends,” and that you share with your best friend (when you’re 8 anyway) so each of you has half. The visual of a heart necklace saying something so unusual really made an impact on me.
The next step was finding the heart necklace. I’m not an amazing Photoshopper/Illustratorer, so I can’t create that kind of image from scratch. My first inclination was to get an actual pendant made and have it professionally photographed. I pored through Etsy and found plenty of the necklaces I was looking for. However, the fonts tended to be more blockish and less like script (cursive with flourishes). I found one vendor who had script, but she told me that the script pendants were pre-etched, meaning she could only use the stock phrases like “Best Friends,” or “I Love You.” The Etsy necklaces were also mostly copper or silver, and I really wanted a gold one. I decided to check on Amazon, where I found the perfect necklace design that I wanted. There were two problems, though. The heart pendant had no text on it, and the necklace was 24k gold and cost almost $300.
I decided to use the zoom preview tool on Amazon and take a screenshot so I could add the text myself in Photoshop. Even with the photo zoomed in though, I couldn’t get a version that would be high enough resolution for an album cover. Here’s where I got sneaky (I probably just did the same thing designers do all the time, but because it was the first time I did it, I get all gushy about it). I opened the picture in Adobe Illustrator and converted it from a pixel-based image (made up of millions of tiny little dots) to a vector image (made up of mathematical calculations). This allowed me to make it as large as I wanted without really losing resolution, though some of the colors were affected a bit. Once it was big enough, I brought it to Photoshop and put it on a nice red background. Like a so:
Next I needed to add the text in. Never one to be satisfied with the default fonts on my computer, I went in search of the perfect script font. It needed to be fancy enough to look elegant, but not so twisty that it couldn’t be read. I browsed one of my favorite font sites, Dafont, and looked through their script section, eventually settling upon Tangerine. I used a darker version of the color of the heart to make it look like it was made from the same metal as the heart, and added a beveled effect. Here’s how it ended up:
In Photoshop it looked great, but as you can see, when it’s exported, the font is too light. It also looked too light when it was printed. So I duplicated the text, and made the duplicated text darker. The effect was to have the interior of the letters stand out more, as if there were more shadows and the etching was deeper, or perhaps it changed the metal in some way.
Also on the cover, I needed to have “Neon and Shy” there. I’ve been using a font called Bebas for the header of my website and my flyers, and it made sense to continue to use it for my band name here. So I added it in at the bottom, the same way it appears on all my materials:
Ah, but this was not just any regular piece of promotional materials. This was the big cheese, the cat’s pajamas, the bees knees (sorry, too many 20’s jazz gigs lately)! It’s like when you see Star Trek on TV versus Star Trek on the big screen. They take the regular logo and spruce it up a bit. So I did the same with mine, adding some beveling and shadow:
Once added in with the heart, the front cover was finished:
I spent an equal amount of time on the back, interior, and CD face, playing with different fonts and tweaking the overall look. Want to see how those ones turned out? Well I guess I’ll see you on August 25th at the CD release!
I do want to bring this back to what I was mentioning earlier: doing graphic design work is like so many things, within our grasp, but terrifying to reach for. Many of us haven’t done free-form art projects since middle school, so jumping in and trying to make something meaningful can be daunting. Just remember that the same doubts you have are the doubts experienced by so many talented professional artists, and that fun and expression are key to the creative process. In designing the packaging for your own products, you are in the fortunate position of being your own client. Work in such a way that you meet your needs and have fun in the process, and you’re sure to create something that others can admire as well.