Similar in craft to Charlie Parker, Blues By Mildred Bailey shows us the eathstetic of the era – a stark base color, framed by text. While the SWISS style of design wasn’t really adapted until the 60’s, these two covers are early examples of what would come to be known as such. Sadly Mildred has a very different sort of framing (arguably a lesser one) and instead of working together, the photo and the copy. The copy looks like it pushes her instead of the other way around or in a way that brings them together a shared importance. The title of the album being so close to her and bright white also creates a sort of compaction, causing her to seem
more round or squashed than she actually is. There are many different ways which this could be fixed, one of which would be to have the composition similar to Mel Torme below. Her name should be first and foremost, with the title of the album being “Blues By Mildred Bailey” but if we’re trying to work within the guidelines set before us, here we go. In the fix – give her portrait a little more room to breathe and rearrange a few elements and the overall design becomes more fluid and digestible. While the bright white of her name is still the top of the hierarchy it’s a bit more subtle and allows her image to be viewed unhindered. Baileys album would be better served full color. Why it wasn’t given the care that the Torme album was is anyone’s guess, but there it is. An amazing artist with subpar album art isn’t the end of the world, but I wonder what kind of career an artist can or could have otherwise.
It’s possible that growing up with Night Court had no small part in my decision to pick a Mel Torme album. Funny enough until now I hadn’t thought once about the show or Torme, but I became curious and found out that, Michael Buble sounds just like Torme, eerily so.
It’s interesting what 8 years (and possibly other factors) can do for album art. We have a very similar style of design, but this time, in color! Not only do we get full color but we get actual color theory aspects that make the album more interesting to look at, but also showing a deeper thought process. With time our limitations are constantly being broken down, allowing us to create more intricate and precise work. That does, of course, create other blocks and difficulties.
While programs like Adobe Spark and Canva have made great strides in making designing accessible to everyone but in doing so, does it makes us lazy designers or does it instead shine a light on the designers we always were? What will happen when there’s nothing left to push us? Will good enough one day be… good enough? If good enough becomes our best, how long until a lesser good enough becomes our best? How did we get here from Night Court again?
Back to the good things about this album, it is basic at its best. Yellow, the first color we see upon first viewing something (it is, don’t try to fight it, because you’re fighting it) is not only his name but the title as well. This is of course a bit lazy but at the same time, a smart choice. What’s very cool is that Verve and its elements are on the grid with his name. As a designer I can count on my hands the number of times I’ve had clients ask to make the logo the biggest thing on the design (not that there’s anything wrong with that) (pssst, there is actually something wrong with it) if I had 16 hands. I’m always pleased when I see companies willing to sacrifice themselves a little bit to make a really great design. Don’t get me wrong, I love brand building, but with all things, it has its place. Importantly, the orchestra bit, small, blueish white coming from a bluish white shirt. It’s brilliant because it keeps it from drawing to much attention but using a similar color to what is in the design or in this case his image it becomes a part of the overall design, not just an element in it. Lastly, the way it sits on his shoulder, would normally cause the image to feel unbalanced, but because he is already leaning that way we end up with a nice diagonal line that gives the design that classic alphabet movement I like so much.