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Craig & Karl : Universal Love Songs

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Illustration duo Craig & Karl were approached by the team at McCann to create album artwork for a new project called Universal Love, a collection of reimagined wedding songs for the LGBTQ community, celebrating the enduring and overwhelming power of love and music to unite.

The album, released by MGM Resorts International, offers six newly recorded versions of iconic love songs that give same-sex couples a soundtrack for their own love stories and feature pronouns changed to reflect the world of LGBTQ relationships.  This includes boundary-changing songs from some of today’s most-beloved artists. Bob Dylan, one of the most influential and successful recording artists in American history, is among the visionary artists participating in this unprecedented project. Dylan re-recorded “She’s Funny That Way” as “He’s Funny That Way.” Also featured are renowned artists: Kesha, (“I Need a Woman to Love Me”), St. Vincent (“And Then She Kissed Me”), Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie (“And I Love Him”), Kele Okereke of Bloc Party (“My Guy”), and Valerie June (“Mad About The Girl”).

These songs are sure to become wedding anthems for same-sex couples in the near future and we are proud to be a part of this initiative.  Learn more about the project and hear the songs here:  https://www.universal-love.com/

MGM’s Mlife Magazine caught up with Craig Redman for a few words about working on the project:

MLife: What interested you in this project?

Craig: Foremost it was the opportunity to create artwork for a project that unabashedly celebrates gay marriage. Gay marriage was a very hard fought victory for our community, it was a decades-long battle lead by many brave, hard-working people and one that was a very divisive issue for a long time. Being in a time where we are no longer denied our fundamental rights and in fact our rights are now celebrated is very meaningful, this project is a great opportunity to contribute to that conversation in a positive way.
MLife: Why was it important to you to be involved?
Craig: I felt euphoric when the decision on gay marriage was handed down by the Supreme Court in 2015. I remember thinking “Oh wow, this is what it feels like to be wholly accepted”, it was such a surreal emotion, something I didn’t know had been missing until then. I was also excited about what it meant for future generations, for who marriage and equality in general, wasn’t in perpetual question. Of course, discrimination didn’t just suddenly disappear but the LGBTQ community’s future became much brighter, so being part of a project that celebrates people being able to marry whoever they like, regardless of gender, was a no-brainer.
MLife: How did you come up with the cover concept?
Craig: Our overarching idea was, of course, to represent “universal love”, and to do this in a fun and exuberant way. We represented the connection between two people with a simple graphic device that has come to represent the gay community – a rainbow. The rainbow then connects two genderless people, the inference being that love is for all.
We then added other signifiers inside the two heads, like a pink triangle which is representative of many important gay historical moments, not always positive, but yet unites our diverse community. By adding a suite of other graphic icons across the two heads, both literal and abstract, we created a single visual unit – the two heads become one.
MLife: One of you lives in London, the other in New York. How do you collaborate?
Craig: We do, I live in New York and Karl lives in London and we’ve been working together from different cities for about 10 years. Prior to that, we went to university together and then worked side-by-side for many years. It’s because of how well we know each other that we have a successful working relationship across the Atlantic. Practically speaking our entire collaborative process is done online, we have a shared Dropbox where we pass artwork back and forth, encouraging the other to add or subtract as much as they see fit. We chat all day on a messaging app and we either talk or video chat to discuss projects and develop ideas.
MLife: The artwork, like much of your work, is reminiscent of pop art from the ‘60s and ‘70, what was your intent?
Craig: Our work has a definite pop aesthetic but it’s also influenced by a huge range of other things too. Mostly it’s influenced by our everyday surroundings, it could be a badly designed take-out menu that inspires an idea, or a conversation with friends, or a ridiculous scene from a reality TV show –  we Frankenstein all these elements together and reassemble them back together in our own unique visual way.
MLife: What do you want people to feel when they see the art?
Craig: We mostly want people to feel a sense of optimism, it’s one of the core themes that runs through all our work. The subject is a positive one and we wanted to portray that through our use of color, form, as well as with the graphic signifiers scattered throughout the artwork.
MLife: How long did it take to create the cover and what was the most challenging part?
Craig: The concept and artwork actually happened pretty quickly. We developed a whole bunch of different ideas initially and this one felt right straight-away and everyone involved in the project agreed too. There was a little finessing but the art actually didn’t change too much from the very first take, it struck the right tone both conceptually and visually by portraying universal love in a simple, uplifting and meaningful way.