The Return of . . . KISS (#3)

August 18, 2009 on 2:52 am | By | In Gigs, News | 40 Comments

In developing and refining my pencil sketch for Sonic Boom I wasn’t completely happy with how the background was working with the diamond shape and the positioning and scale of the lightning border (a small nod to RaRO). I also wanted to play up the idea of something shattering (i.e. from a sonic boom). So I came up with the semi-abstract idea of concentric circles rippling outward like water, only breaking up incrementally into smaller and smaller segments as they expanded, changing the background color from violet to black. It seemed like a fairly simplistic idea, so I tried it and it worked. It also seemed to serve well to both ground and amplify the light beams emanating from the center, which break through the faces. I went through several color iterations, ending with one that had a dark red bleed border. I showed that version to Paul. He looked at it for a minute and then suggested we just change the border to black. We both agreed that this worked better, finishing the design process on this piece.

I did have to redo all the art for the CD/DVD package, which has a slightly more horizontal proportion. That meant shifting and manipulating the proportions of many of the elements. Because the angle of the beams had changed in the new configuration, the most complicated part of this was redoing all the faces. It’s a little difficult to tell what went into the face art, transforming them from normal color photographs, so here’s an enlarged detail:

At first glance, it might look as though I accomplished this using some version of Photoshop’s posterize filter—but I didn’t. The photos needed to be manipulated quite extensively to gain the look I was trying to achieve. I used a similar process when I did the graphics for the Jewish Zodiac pieces.

I’m hoping this art will elicit strong reactions from KISS fans and art enthusiasts alike. My intention was to stir nostalgia for the era of Rock and Roll Over, while inviting the same enthusiasm for new adventure that the Sonic Boom albums and DVD intend to do. 

The avid KISS fan will note that the KISS logo on Sonic Boom is not the “official” logo. As I did with RaRO, I redrew the KISS logo after discussing the idea with Paul Stanley. He knew that I had redrawn it for RaRO, and liked the result. In fact, he told me that I’m the only designer who he would ever allow to do that! Below I’ve posted an image with the official KISS logo (at upper left) and just to it’s right, my redrawn version. Below that are (on the left) the logo from Sonic Boom, and the one from RaRO.

Tinkering with the KISS logo, ever so slightly, was an important step towards seamlessly blending the iconic logo with the (hopefully) iconic cover design. I’m very happy with end result, which you see on the cover of Sonic Boom. It truly has been a pleasure to return to my roots, in essence, by rejoining the creative process with KISS. As it was the first time, this experience was one to remember! I can’t wait for the next adventure…


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  1. Ben—thanks for the kind words. I haven’t been contacted about doing any more work for them. Not that I would turn it down if asked, but there are plenty of good designers out there. And I don’t want to become known as “that guy who does the Kiss covers”.


    Comment by Michael Doret — November 17, 2011 #

  2. Hello Michael,

    Thanks so much for the response. I love your lettering and illustration style. Your work has truly been an inspiration to me and played a large part in my desire to become an illustrator and designer.

    Is there any chance you’ll be working on the packaging for the upcoming KISS album Monster?

    Comment by Ben — November 17, 2011 #

  3. Dear Ben,

    Thank you for your kind remarks, and for your questions about my process.

    You are correct in suggesting that the treatment of the faces is somewhat similar to a “posterize” effect. But I do not rely on the use of filters to create what I do. A posterize filter will produce a result with dozens of extraneous colors. I work with a limited palette and wanted to avoid that.

    What I ended up doing is my own technique for processing photography, which is a very lengthy process but the result of which is far better than relying on a cookie cutter Photoshop filter. The photos that were made available to me were not the best for my purposes, and I had to work on them quite a bit to get them to look the way I wanted. To be honest, I don’t really care if people think I did it one way or another. People will think whatever they want regardless of the facts.

    I think there is far too much reliance on the software to create art, and not enough reliance on plain old creativity. Software can only act like a tool—like a brush and paint. It can’t do your thinking for you. If people think that just using graphics software will make their work any better than it would ordinarily be, then they’ll be doomed to mediocrity.

    Paul originally drew the Kiss logo on his dining room table. He knows that it is drawn a bit out of whack. As a lettering artist I redrew the logo on both RaRO and Sonic Boom—both with Paul’s blessing.


    Comment by Michael Doret — April 6, 2010 #

  4. I’m a huge KISS fan and I count your work on the Rock and Roll Over album as some of the finest. As I’ve explored your site I’ve found much of your other work to be stellar as well.

    I’d like to express my appreciation for a look into your process and follow with a question.

    I’m not sure I understand why it’s important to use an effect on the individual KISS member images that looks like the Photoshop posterize effect, but isn’t. Why not just use the posterize effect since everyone thinks it is anyway? Unless you tell them, people will think it’s posterize anyway.

    Secondly, while I don’t have a problem with the slight revision you’ve made to the KISS logo, I’m not convinced that I see the necessity for this adjustment and I’m not entirely enthusiastic about your color choices with the logo.

    Lastly, I’d like to say the album cover looks good and I like the Sonic Boom lettering a lot.

    Thanks for your insight and keep up the good work.


    Comment by Ben — April 6, 2010 #

  5. Mr. Doret can you post some pics of the early sketches that evolved into the iconic RaRO. I remember “Backsatge Auctions” having some alternate artwok available during an auction held for Lyndia Criss a few years back, but now unable to find any images. TY

    Comment by Kevin — November 28, 2009 #

  6. Hello Michael,

    I’m a big fan of your ‘nifty’ font and image designs. One day I will say or sing these lines to you.

    “Inspiration’s what you are to me, inspiration, look… see” (Led Zeppelin)

    So for now,
    live long and prosper

    Cenk Arslan, (22) from Istanbul

    Comment by Cenk (jenk) — October 23, 2009 #

  7. Casey, just so you know, those images were derived from recent photos that the band supplied me with. As I’ve said, Paul directed me to use photography. I would have preferred to render the images myself, but they didn’t want that.

    Comment by Michael Doret — August 30, 2009 #

  8. Hello Micheal,
    i was very excited to know u were the man behind the new KISS cover cos RARO is my fav cover of all the time. I think u did a cool job on this one too even if I dont like the “aged” band images. I consider KISS some “not aged superheroes” so I was a bit disappointed about the use of those 2000 images. (i could never like an old Superman, Diabolik or Peter Parker)
    Have u ever considered to draw the 4 yourself as u did with RARO?
    Cheers from Italy!

    Comment by Casey — August 30, 2009 #

  9. Mimmozak: No, I just presented the one idea, and that’s the one we used.

    Comment by Michael Doret — August 29, 2009 #

  10. Hello Michael… always respect for who makes however its job! I would want to know if you had others artworks beyond that chosen end for Sonic Boom…

    A Salute…from Italy

    Comment by mimmozak — August 29, 2009 #

  11. Hello Michael,
    here is Alessandro from Rome, Italy.
    Let’s start from 1976. No, too early 😉
    1981, when I bought my copy of RaRO on LP. I remember that night, it was the last album I miss from Kiss, I discovered the band on summer 1980, and see them here in Rome, Castel St. Angel, the location of Angels & Demons.
    In 1981, the RaRO cover was one of my less preferred, because of that strange graphic, while i.e. Love Gun’s and Destroyer’s was more “friendly”. Then I dig the work behind the cover, listening to the album on headphones, and now it’s one of my favourite covers ever (of Kiss, but is in my top20 of all).
    All this to say that I need to have the CD in my hands, or better a bigger copy of the cover. In my opinion, the lettering SONIC BOOM is simply great, I really love it. Maybe, I had suggested to not put Kiss faces on the cover, as in The Elder. Of course it’s impossible, but in my opinion the faces could be better on the retrocover.
    Being that they couldn’t avoid Kiss on the cover, for marketing reasons, in my opinion the cover is perfect. Because, and I thank Paul for the strenght of the choice and Michael for releasing it, today’s Kiss is Eric and Tommy and they deserve to be on the cover. A new RaRO type of cover could have been easier, but not true.
    Kiss is forever.
    Thank you Michael, for giving a gift to us fans, your artwork is the finest I could expect for this album 🙂

    Comment by Alessandro Maiucchi — August 28, 2009 #

  12. Hi Michael,

    I was a huge KISS fan growing up and the RaRO cover is one of my all-time faves. It’s one of the things I can point back to that inspired me to be a designer. The new cover is terrific! Love the type, the retooled logo and colors. Thanks for sharing the story behind the design.

    Comment by Jason — August 25, 2009 #

  13. Michael,

    Your work is incredibly inspiring. I believe you did a fantastic job with the new Kiss album, Sonic Boom. I hope you don’t mind, but I would like to talk about your work in my blog soon.


    Comment by John — August 20, 2009 #

  14. Hello Michael,

    In 6th grade I bought the original. In it was also a set of stickers and those stickers were carefully placed on the cover of my turntable.
    The image was a great explosion of energy and to this neophyte, showed that realism wasn’t the only way to effectively solve a problem.
    If you received a dollar for each denim jacket that was painted on…
    As for the new art, I would have preferred that the two KISS stand ins be upside down. If it was good enough for Criss and Frehley, it’s good enough for them.
    Glad they came back for you. I imagine working with Gene Simmons is like working for Donald Trump on a bad day.

    Comment by Tim O'Brien — August 20, 2009 #

  15. It’s inspiring to see creations from a graphic designer who still works with pencil and doesn’t rely on PhotoShop filters for effect. Redrawing the logo, yet maintaining its integrity is really difficult to do– not too mention a bold move. It’s clear the band members of KISS worked closely with this artist in conceiving the ideal visual representation for their music. Like many of Dorets creations, this too will be time-honored. Congratulations!

    Comment by shelley — August 20, 2009 #

  16. G’day Michael
    Congratulations on the Sonic Boom artwork! It fits the canon of KISS album cover art magnificently – a wonderful design that continues the aesthetic, artistic legacy of our beloved band.
    Thank you, and well done!

    Comment by David — August 20, 2009 #

  17. The cover is excellent. The kinetic excitement in the new cover art is perfect for the KISS re-launch. Your skills as a craftsman and graphic designer perfectly match the explosive power of the band’s image and history. I think its cool that they reached back in their history, to pick the best cover designer to help them with this new record. Now I have to decide which of your covers is my new favorite the old one or the new one. Tough choice. Rock on.

    Comment by Glenn — August 19, 2009 #

  18. We are talking Heavy Metal here guys! Nazi-Demon-Death symbols are trademarks in this industry and KISS themselves are a testament to that. They have a sense of humor and at one point they were anti-establishment with their style of music and fashion.
    They may not be Nazis but they didn’t mind the SS looking like it on most of their albums to shock your parents. As fans you should know this by now.
    Michael Doret’s color version of the logo is a step away from the black and white Nazi colors . Michael knows what he’s doing and his years of executing hand-drawn type can not be questioned by any true graphic designer. Most of us know that he’s in a league all his own.
    Do you really think that KISS themselves have no say as to what goes on their covers? What, are they taking a nap between gigs?

    Comment by Jose Cruz — August 19, 2009 #

  19. I was more fond of the initial sketch I’ve seen floating around somewhere. But it turned out okay and starts growing on me. The cover especially works when it shown small. Thanks for the insights on what you did and why (as a graphic designer I’m always interested in that kinda stuff).
    About the logo: Don’t like what you did there, mostly because it’s more Nazi-style. The cool thing about the real logo is that the S’s are not the same, with all respect this looks more like the logo you get when you use the Dienasty font.
    But hey, we’ll see, maybe in ten years it’s also recognised as an iconic album cover! We’ll see how everybody feels about it when they finally have the album in their own hands.

    Comment by ypke — August 19, 2009 #

  20. Michael…enjoyed reading the story behind the covers…the only problem with Sonic Boom is that it will always be compared to Rock And Roll Over…one of, if not the, classic KISS images in KISStory! The biggest KISS fan I know thinks its “cheesy”, but I kinda like it…to me it seems like a mix of RARO & Psycho Circus…but its way better than Psycho Circus! In any event, its sure to stand out in the CD racks at Walmart! Good luck with it!

    Comment by Bobby — August 18, 2009 #

  21. So cool – totally love the new album cover! Right on that the band hired you to do an incredible follow up to RARO!

    Comment by TMann — August 18, 2009 #

  22. This cover rocks! Not sure why you dorks don’t appreciate great art from an amazing artist. And nazi sign? Where are you looking dude? Everyone is entitled to their opinion but if you don’t like this cover, then don’t buy the cd. I’d like to see any of you critics create anything half as brilliant as what Michael has designed in his career, let alone with this one album. I will be proud to place this alongside my original RARO album. Great job Michael.

    Comment by Wayne W — August 18, 2009 #

  23. Michael,

    I have the original RARO album you did from years ago and I think this one rocks! It’s a great compliment to the original and brings things full circle. This is an amazing cover, just like last time. Awesome job!

    Comment by T Jenkins — August 18, 2009 #

  24. […] duas capas são bastante similares e Doret explicou em seu blog o porquê. Sabendo da importância do disco de 1976 (de onde sairam clássicos como “Hard […]

    Pingback by Kiss divulga capa do novo disco « oitudoemcima — August 18, 2009 #

  25. I’m a die hard kiss fan, but also a graphic designer. RaRO is one of my favorites covers for many many reasons. It reflects everything about KISS. By that time they were becoming icons in the pop culture, so, no better way could have been shown than in that cover. it’s a classic. But if you’re expecting to see the same in Sonic Boom, you’re wrong. Michael, I understand the concept you and Paul wanted to communicate for this one. It’s clear. anyway, there are some elements that I don’t like much, like the orange square behind or the red transparency in the circles with the faces, I love the lettering and the work with the logo. Original logo wouldn’t work in here as it wouldn’t have worked in RaRO (you, Paul and I agree with that…), so people, don’t be square… So, within the parameters and limitations that had been set out for you, you did a good job again for KISS.

    Comment by patokiss — August 18, 2009 #

  26. The Sonic Boom cover is amazing! You created artwork that represents KISS from the past, the present and beyond (which I believe is also the concept for the music in the package). Congratulations on a wonderful solution to a complex project.
    …can’t wait to get my copy!

    Comment by BB — August 18, 2009 #

  27. Nice work. The craftsmanship really shows through. Classic art for classic rock and roll! It’s even worth the trip to Walmart.

    Comment by Roger — August 18, 2009 #

  28. Michaelicious!


    Comment by bz — August 18, 2009 #

  29. It’s fantastic – a combination of the aesthetic of Rock and Roll Over with the color scheme of Hotter Than Hell. Absolutely, 100% pure KISS!

    Comment by Jed Davis — August 18, 2009 #

  30. Ouch! Some of these comments must have hurt! Not being a KISS Fan all I can say is I’d rather see Michael’s artwork than yet another lame picture of the Old Band Members with more wrinkles that pancake can’t hide and sans-belt leather outfits to cover up those tired old flabby bodies. We really do sell “Toothpaste” in this Modern-Madmen Age! Your art is as usual, GREAT! …no matter what the clients demand or the fans can’t understand.

    Comment by Jose Cruz — August 18, 2009 #

  31. You hit the nail on the head and totally fulfilled the brief! I LOVE the SONIC BOOM lettering, it would look great as a single image on a ‘T’ Shirt. So difficult to follow up what has become an iconic cover image, ‘specially when the format you have to work in is so completely different. Seems some people wanted to see you design a 12″ LP cover then just shrink it down…which could never work at point of sale. Just wait and see…when this CD finally hits the streets everyone will love it and a new classic KISS image will emerge…KISS SONIC BOOM!

    Comment by andrew standish — August 18, 2009 #

  32. Michael! Love the cover!! Can’t wait to hear the album. Congrats!

    Comment by jim Shore — August 18, 2009 #

  33. The artwork sucks – big time. In the past all Kiss CD´s and DVD´s has the original Kiss Logo.
    Kiss fans have not waiting 10 years for a cheap replica. The Logo is shit and not to compare with original Logo. A original Kiss CD/LP must have the original KISS Logo! Make a correction before the CD some´s out.

    Comment by Christian — August 18, 2009 #

  34. Hallo Michael !

    I have NO problem with the cover !
    U have it maked simple, but good in my opinion !

    Don’t change it…….because what ever U do next, there will be again people who don’t like it ! And then ? U guy(s) will change again ? 😉

    Greetings to U & KISS 4EVER

    Comment by Lion67 — August 18, 2009 #

  35. Dear Michael,

    We loved reading the blogs covering this topic.

    A very in-depth look at the making of a soon-to-be classic KISS album cover.

    Thumbs Up from THE KISS ARMY!

    Comment by aul K — August 18, 2009 #

  36. Michael,

    From a life-long KISS fan, I wanted to tell you that I absolutely love the artwork! Reminiscent of Rock ‘n Roll Over (obviously) – my personal favorite, I think it once again captures a moment in time (the next chapter in Kisstory) with a dedicated reflection and tribute to the past. Nice tie-in. I’m very excited for the new music and this just makes the anticipation that much greater. Great job!

    Comment by Dan Hayes — August 18, 2009 #

  37. I really didn’t like the cover initially, but it is growing on me. The main observation that I’d make is that the color scheme is unusual, (purple and red being the primary colors – is it any coincidence that these are stanley and simmons’ associated aura colors?) and the artwork style seems anachronistic to the time period the band was shooting for. Still, this has a similar feel to RARO although a much more streamlined design.

    Most people harshly criticize or praise a piece of art on their initial impression, and then they rethink their opinion after several viewings. It’s hard to please everyone, but I wouldn’t read too much into forum blather. The design certainly does not look unprofessional.

    Comment by Matt Walters — August 18, 2009 #

  38. It’s been an absolute pleasure to read these blogs.

    Comment by Anthony Tyler — August 18, 2009 #

  39. Your version of the logo looks very much like the German Nazi SS.

    Comment by Ruben — August 18, 2009 #

  40. Hello Michael,

    I´m very disappointed about the Sonic Boom cover.
    I has thought, the cover is closer at the cult cover from “Rock ´n´Roll Over”.

    It looks very cheap and it´s not comparable with other great KISS covers like Destroyer or Love Gun.

    Greets from Germany


    Comment by Martin — August 18, 2009 #

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