Behind the Artwork: Starlight - Bethel Music
Every time our creative team is tasked with creating the artwork for our annual Bethel Music live worship album, the weight of carrying that responsibility is felt so strongly.
There's such a tension in these projects because we're no longer just designing for an artist or worship leader - helping to give creative expression to whatever they see in their head and feel in their heart - but we're literally trying to encapsulate visually what an entire church has been declaring, singing and living out for an entire year.
So it's in that tension and weight that I and our creative team came to this project. The cover that you see and know wasn't the first try or even the 10th, but rather the culmination of many months of trialing out all the creative concepts we had, throwing them away and coming back to simplicity.
Originally this project was called "Catch the Wind", only changing to "Starlight" about two months or so before our print deadline. The great part is that both these titles create an unlimited amount of visual story due to the imagery associated with both names.
Even though I was in love with quite a few of these early concepts, none of them stuck with the rest of our team - nor the leadership (album stakeholders), so they were shelved.
The process of designing an album is one of give and take; the beauty of knowing what to throw away and what to fight for. Even though it might not be obvious, elements of 3 of those (above) concepts actually came together to form the final "Starlight" album artwork - and the middle concept (person on the salt flats) became what is now Josh Baldwin's "The War Is Over" album cover.
Never completely throw anything away - it's not being "un-creative" or "boring" to go back to unused concepts and see if they might fit another project - that's actually the art of creativity; knowing when something fits and when it doesn't.
One of the most important lessons that I've learned throughout my time at Bethel Music, is that collaboration and refinement are the most vital part of the creative process. Trying, yes, but essential to maintaining a healthy creative community.
Late in the conceptual phase of this album, I and our creative director Lindsey Strand were sitting together feeling very uninspired with all the concepts for "Catch The Wind". Lindsey turned to me and said, we should call the album "Starlight".
A light went on and just like that inspiration returned to us. Suddenly my mind was full of imagery and new creative directions to pursue.
While we didn't have leadership on board for a name change yet, our team has always been blessed with the option of "pleading our case" to leadership - they know that sometimes it's the creative team that will have a solution for a business/marketing idea that they haven't found yet.
If you're feeling stuck with a project, take yourself out of the constraints and dream up your ideal scenario for that project. I've found that 9 times out of 10, when you allow yourself to re-create aspects of a project based on your gut, leadership will fall in line with your vision and adjust their previous boundaries to encompass your new creative expression.
Long story short, after I'd designed some new concepts for our proposed name change, me and Lindsey pitched this idea to our stakeholders / leadership, they agreed and we proceeded forward with Starlight as the new album name!
Although we had the name change...we didn't have the cover yet!
I remember I had a concept in my mind - a simple cover with my hand lettering for the title - and feeling very frustrated because it just wasn't working. I had my lettering brush in my hand and had written "starlight" about a million times on hundreds of papers, when in frustration I drew a giant brush stroke all the way down the page - quite the dramatic "UGH I GIVE UP" kind of stroke.
To my surprise and subsequent delight, the brush stroke looked weirdly perfect and in my mind it jumped off the page as it looked like a comet. I humoured myself and thought, "Maybe I could make an artistic cover, depicting a comet, for starlight."
As it turns out, this is indeed the final cover concept that you see today. It works so perfectly for this album because I believe it encapsulates the message of the song "Starlight"... "There's no heart unseen, no space between, You and I".
From before the beginning of time, Jesus had you and I in mind. Much like this hand-made, uncomplicated, artistic album cover, every detail of this universe, our lives, He's perfectly orchestrated.