• Steve Wilson: Panama Wedding

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Steve Wilson: Panama Wedding

Art Direction, Design, Illustration, Illustrators/Designers, Music, Patterns, Steve Wilson

Next time you look at a piece of album art, consider the following: designers often go through hundreds of variations on even the most simple of designs in order to achieve the perfect harmony of graphic color, typography, and composition. Perhaps then, it goes without saying that the basics taught in design school for years still hold true today, and our Steve Wilson is no stranger to this painstaking, but rewarding development. He shared with us some of his process work for the band, Panama Wedding, from start to finish.

Can you tell us a little about the starting point of making these variations? Do you begin by hand or work exclusively in digital?

I worked exclusively digitally in this series.   As we were aiming for something bold and graphic I found it easier on this particular project to go straight in and create the shapes digitally. The lead singer Peter Kirk initially referenced quite a lot of old covers and posters so we created a bit of a mood board.

I felt there was a certain overall feel and style that ran through all of what he was referencing that I wanted to try and capture. There were some obvious visual things as well that I liked.  If you look at the mood board, I loved the strong circular graphic shape from the bottom middle piece.  We discussed the fact that music artwork now has to have an impact when used really small on itunes and social media, etc., so using a strong graphic shape to contain each piece would mean it would work really well small as well as at a larger size. As a result a lot of my final designs are contained within strong graphic shapes…circles, hexagons, squares.

Another thing I took from the mood board was the pattern and repetition of shape in the Police and Penguin Prison covers. I sent a lot of visuals to begin with as I wanted to gauge what kind of thing he felt drawn to. Early on, the work was much busier but it evolved slowly until we had refined it. The first single, “All of the People”, uses a limited palette, pattern, petition of shape and a design simplicity that can be traced back to the mood board. It felt like we had successfully combined the things he liked into something that had a character of its own. Once that first design was complete, the tone was set and the other releases were easy to execute. From the start, we discussed creating artwork that had a visual connection across all of the releases to they would be instantly recognisable as Panama Wedding artwork. It was decided that the face profile that we had used in the first single, “All of the People”, would feature across all of the main artwork but used in different ways to represent the title of each release. For example, the face profile is used multiple times as part of an abstract globe illustration, whereas the parallel play execution the face profile was repeated to create parallel lines.

Originally, what did the client expect from you? About how many drafts did you go through?
With music jobs it’s pretty pointless putting a limit on the number of rounds and drafts you are willing to do as it varies so much, sometimes you do something first time that they love, other times you try loads of routes. I tried out quite a lot of ideas for this project early on but all quite quick executions just to try and gauge as quickly as possible where to take it.  It’s a debut album so I had no preconceptions about the band or reminders of past artwork to affect my thinking.  Once the style was set with the first single, the artwork for the releases that followed was very easy to produce as we had set the look for the band.
How do you decide which colors to use? For example, the Kuler application attached to Illustrator is a great tool to find the perfect combinations,  but there are infinite ways to find a palette.
It’s just by eye really.  I tend to make the image first in a set number of colours and then spend a lot of time at the end just trying out different colour combinations using various tools in photoshop, usually by messing about with the hues and the colour levels, that kind of thing.  Anything that happens when I am experimenting that I think is interesting I will save and then I’ll lay them all out together side by side and choose 3 or 4 colourways by a process of elimination.  I’ll then usually present what I think are the best options to the client.

In all of the best examples of album artwork that I have worked on it’s been a collaborative process.  This was certainly the case with Panama Wedding.  It is why I enjoy music jobs so much, when things go well with them you are working with another creative who also want to input ideas and so you are often pushed in directions you might not normally go and that can be exciting.

The final artwork can be seen below:

Be sure to check out Panama Wedding’s newest single, “All of the People”, out on iTunes now.