The Return of . . . KISS (#2)

August 17, 2009 on 2:00 am | By | In Gigs, News, Wayback Machine | 11 Comments

When Paul Stanley came by my studio to discuss how to proceed on the art for the cover of their upcoming CD/DVD package “Sonic Boom”, I had no idea what to expect. I hadn’t met with him since working on Rock and Roll Over, and had very little memory of what that had been like. Any anxiety I had melted away when we started talking. Paul is a “gentlemen’s gentleman” and I immediately felt at ease talking with him—as if all those years had not intervened since the last time we had spoken. After some small talk he explained what he was after with the new cover art. His vision for this album was to make it as vital and raw as it had been when they did RaRO. He felt that that had been some of the best work that they had ever done, and wanted the new album to recreate that energy both musically and visually. While he didn’t want me to reprise what I had done with my art for the earlier cover, he did want me to try to capture some of the same spirit, attitude, energy, and look that I had instilled in that piece. Also one of his stipulations was that unlike RaRO (where I had created abstract, graphic versions of the KISS personas) this time he wanted photographic representations of the four group members in full makeup.

When I did RaRO I had a 12″ canvas to work on. Now with CD covers and digital booklets that canvas had been reduced to less than 40% of its original size. Designing in a 4¾” space poses some very different problems from what I faced while working on covers for vinyl releases. In fact the older cover design would not have worked at that size, it’s many elements would have felt crowded into a small space. So the elements of Sonic Boom had to be bigger, bolder—and fewer. I made the decision to make the title the main focus of the graphics, moving the other elements (faces, KISS logo) into prominent—but subordinate—roles.

So I set about putting pencil to paper and trying to solve this the way I solve any other design problem. I did not want to get psyched-out by thinking too much about how the new design would compare with RaRO. That cover had taken on a life of its own and had become a pop culture icon. Creating an iconic cover could not have been one of my goals. All I was capable of doing was to try to create the most compelling graphics possible within the parameters and limitations that had been set out for me. So I started out at the core of this design by creating what I call a “word constellation” out of the title. I tried to make it communicate its meaning visually by not only making it angular and “explosive”, but also by creating a shape that was somewhat suggestive of flight—a “flying wing”, if you will. Bearing in mind the symmetrical, mandala-like layout of RaRO I started designing the new piece as a field growing out of the center of the square, with the four members faces moving outwards from the center, and capped with my version of the ubiquitous KISS logo.

It took about a week for me to develop my sketch to the point where I felt confident in what I had come up with. As I had done with RaRO, I felt so strongly about this cover design that I decided to not present any other options—I wanted this to be the ONE.

This is the rough pencil I first presented to Paul. I held my breath as he first took it in, and then was able to exhale when I saw a big smile appear on his face.

Next: A few changes and the final art.


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  1. I liked this original concept better than the ultimate result, though that may have something to do with the lack of color in the sketch. The fragmented design of the ‘boom’ just makes the center look asymmetrical and cluttered for me. You’re clearly a talented man, and “Rock and Roll Over” is a fabulous piece of art, but I think this somewhat simpler version would have worked a lot better.

    FYI, a “gentlemen’s gentleman” is a valet (a butler, like Jeeves).

    Comment by Orchid64 — August 18, 2009 #

  2. Hi, Michael!
    I really like this new cover art.
    Can’t wait to get my hands on the CD!!!

    Comment by Diego — August 18, 2009 #

  3. Peter,

    I’m pleased that you like it. But I’m not sure where your confusion is coming from. The color difference inside the circles appears where the violet light beams from the center break through the reddish circles exposing the cooler color palette. Perhaps it hasn’t been clear on whatever version you’ve been looking at. You should probably wait until you see the printed version before passing judgement. Thanks for your comment.

    Comment by Michael Doret — August 17, 2009 #

  4. Dear Michael,
    Thanks for the great great RaRO cover and this new one too. Very interesting, very cool. I love the font, design and color palet too. What I wonder is that is the final product of new Kiss album cover going to be 3D cover? The reddish-orange shades on these “Balloons” suggest this to me. Otherwise I do not quite get it. Can you shed some light to this one?

    Thank you very much,
    Yours, Peter

    Comment by Peter — August 17, 2009 #

  5. We love the new album cover!

    Great work, again!


    Comment by Mr KISS — August 17, 2009 #

  6. Dear Michael,
    Thanks for your reply and pointing out the RARO album. I noticed the logo on RARO being off too (a bit late to notice after ±30 years, lol). The font didn’t exist then so I figured you redrawn the logo then. As a designer I have no idea why you would change a logo, I suppose I will find out in your next posting…

    Comment by Dion — August 17, 2009 #

  7. Marco,

    I’m working on a deal where we will produce limited edition large scale giclées of both “Sonic Boom” and “Rock and Roll Over” signed not just by me, but also by the members of the group. Stay tuned to this blog. When I have more details I will post them here.

    Thank you to you and Arne for your kind words!

    Comment by Michael Doret — August 17, 2009 #

  8. HI Michael ,
    When I heard you were working on the art work I was thrilled ! Now even more …:-))
    Being a Kiss fan and Admirer of your work and designer too I wanna ask will there be a litho (signed by you )
    All the best

    Comment by Marco Hartmann — August 17, 2009 #

  9. Dion,

    You are wrong about my using a font. I only use fonts for minor subordinate text. If you compare the KISS logo on RaRO to the new one (both redrawn by me) you’ll discover their outline is identical. More about that in my next posting.

    Comment by Michael Doret — August 17, 2009 #

  10. Dear Michael,

    Why is it that the sketch above contains the original KISS logo and the cover represented on KISS Online does not, instead it uses the cheap Die-Nasty font solution?

    Comment by Dion — August 17, 2009 #

  11. The artwork looks really great. I was very excited when I learned that you where going to design the artwork. You certainly fulfilled my expectations.

    Comment by Arne Berge — August 17, 2009 #

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