Singer Celia Berk was working on recording her debut album of standards, show tunes, and hidden gems from the Great American Songbook. She needed somebody to help her navigate the visual side of the process, and of course I was happy to help.
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With any project I’m careful about what I take on. I inevitably spend many, many hours listening to the same songs, and looking at the same images. If I don’t feel connected to the work things get difficult fast. Celia was kind enough to trust me with an unfinished mix of the album, and even in that stage it was clear that I’d enjoy the process. Collaborating with her musical director Alex Rybeck, she had put together a really lovely set of tunes that were beautifully arranged and recorded. It’s a style of music I love, but don’t often get to work on. It was an easy choice to make.
I got to accompany Celia through the entire process from basic visual ideas, finding a photographer—the excellent Mike Dote—and picking wardrobe for the shoot, to getting the physical album packaging produced. Beyond wanting an elegant and timeless look, Celia needed the album to be her calling card for radio stations and reviewers. The package had to telegraph that this wasn’t amateur hour. Accordingly, we went with a simple, bold design on the cover, and clear strong information on the inside.
It was important to Celia that her musicians got prominent billing. Accordingly, I placed them on the first panel, covering the actual CD and opposite the track listing and publishing information. Production credits and acknowledgements were placed on the final panel. As a little visual treat and reference to the album title, we hid a crocus blossom underneath the CD tray. The CD itself is simple as can be—Celia’s name in black, and the album title knocked out of green ink, revealing the silver surface of the disc.
As a final detail, Celia asked me to design a small nightingale as her personal totem and as a graphic link to her record label, the Gramercy Nightingale Music Company.
The little bird also makes a cameo appearance as the favicon of the Gramercy Nightingale website, which I then also designed. Because I can’t stop halfway.