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Margo Chase is one of the most influential graphic designers of our time. Over the past 20 years, Margo's highly expressive work has been seen in movie posters for Bram Stoker's Dracula; on album covers for top performers like Cher, Madonna, and Prince; and in ads for brands such as Starbucks, Target, and Procter & Gamble. With a background in biology, Margo migrated to the world of graphic design, where she brought a unique, organic quality to logos, lettering, and identity design. Never one to live life passively, Margo has developed a love for competitive aerobatic flying in her own high-performance plane. This installment of Creative Inspirations takes viewers inside the studio, portfolio, and adrenaline-pumped lifestyle of this inspired and inspiring designer.
(Music Playing) Margo Chase: One of them is this project for Cher, Love Hurts. So this is actually a limited edition box set. So it was a CD, that was created as a special limited edition and sent out as a promotion. Primarily, these things went to press, that kind of thing, so they would usually print maybe a couple of hundred of them. So they were really pretty hand-made in a particular sense, and they always went along with the release.
And if the label thought that the release was going to be important enough and that artist merited the money they would produce a limited edition package. So getting to do those projects as a designer was a big clue because they spent more money on production and was much more interesting than just doing a little CD cover. This project was funny too because this was the very first project I did when I got my first Macintosh. And my first Mac was a Mac IIci, and you could suddenly do all these things easily that you couldn't do before, and I don't think, I would have ever endeavored to do a project like this if I hadn't had Photoshop, and granted it was kind of I sold my ability to do this project, based on what I'd heard you could do with Photoshop, not what I actually knew I could do because I mean I think my package was still in shrink wrap of my software.
I don't think I haven't even installed it yet. So it was a learning curve, and kind of a learning curve, it shows expense, but that was okay. So this is the actual box, it came in a wooden box. Each of the cards went inside it was related to one of the songs. So there was a card for the cover that has this kind of double C with flying wings, monogram on it, and all the elements that are in these collages are scanned in on a little tiny Desktop Scanner that I had, that went with my Mac IIci, or photographed by a friend of mine who is a Photographer and she shot all the little elements for me.
It's like the bird wings are actually a bird who tragically flew into the windows of my studio, and so we took him and put him in the freezer until we got to the photo-shoot and then photographed the wings, and then clipped them out, put them in and scanned gold leaf paper, scanned ribbon, that we had curled up and twisted. So all the elements that are in here are either 2D or 3D objects that were scanned and then reassembled in Photoshop. We had a really hard time working with her in terms of getting her to show up for a photo-shoot. She was too busy or had too many things going on or didn't like how she looked that day.
So what we ended up doing was casting a body-double which finding a body-double for Cher is kind of challenging to start with. So we had to find somebody who actually kind of looked like, it could conceivably be Cher's body, photographed her in the outfits that we want because the concept here with this tarot card theme was the white queen and the dark queen and all of the other tarot symbols that were related to the song titles. So then we basically went through the approved photos that Cher's group gave us and they were like three that would work and one of them was from a workout video, I think and that's the shot we did of using, and stripped that head onto the body and then did a lot of retouching and stuff to try to make it look realistic.
And this is retouching, really, really slowly. So most of you guys probably don't even know how slow a Mac IIci look like, a 100 meg hard drive could be. But it was literally like you put, paste up something and you go to rotate it and you do a little rotation thing and then the little Time Bar would come up and kind of go (sound), you sit there forever. Okay, great, it's in the right position, oh, no that's not right. I'd better move it back a little bit and then (sound), so every single piece that you would lay into this thing took forever.
So you didn't have all the layers, you have now to flatten everything. It's just incredibly excruciating, and we would take these images over to Cher and show them to her. She'd go, I want more hair, and so I'd have to go to back to the office and sit there (sound) you go. It took days, days to get these things done, and she didn't know what she was asking for. She didn't realize I was trying to do it on my desktop computer not some really high-speed retouching, high-end thing. But in the end it came out really well, and I actually won a Grammy Award in this package, so which was for me that first time I ever won anything in the music business, that was a pretty big deal.
We also got a chance to do some work for Madonna, and Like A Prayer is here, and I've done several other projects for Madonna over the years including tour books and things, and she is great to work with, and really pretty much responsible for me getting a chance to do as much work as I did do in the music business because working for her at that point was that was kind of the pinnacle of music work. I think kind of she still is. One of my favorite bands, I was working with a band called Crowded House and they were music I really liked, it was a bunch of guys who were all really easy to talk to and fun to meet with, and they were artists themselves, a lot of them, so we would sit in meetings and just kind of toss around ideas about what to do and they were visible enough, they were on Capital Records at that point.
That they got not only their main release, but then they also got a lot of singles covers release, so they were designed for the main album and then they were all the designs for these different singles. So you've got a chance just kind of do a bunch of different work that all kind of related. One of my favorite ones was for a single called Fingers of Love, and it's kind of a -- its hands clasped together with a light-bulb inside, like a little fiber optics light that makes your fingers glow, and it's something that I knew happened and I wanted to try to get it photographed it. A friend of mine named Sidney Cooper who was a Photographer at that point photographed it for me.
So that was an image I really loved. And then another project we got to do is for this band called Ten Inch Men, who are kind of Heavy Metal Rock. The album was titled Pretty Vultures which is just sort of a great title. So we cast this one woman, she showed up when we did a casting and she had long hair, long black dark hair down to her waist, and I thought, oh, that's kind of cool. And the actual date of shoot she showed up and she would cut her hair off and bleached it white and it was about an eighth of an inch long and white, and I was like, oh, my God, like it's going to ruin the shot, and Marilyn said, oh, no, I think it could be cool.
So we made her up, we kind of paint her up body white and wrapped her in these kind of bandages, and I'd already created wings that are actually painted on flat foamcore but in the shot they actually look dimensional, I mean they are painted enough so they sort of do that trample effect. We put them behind her body and the shot is still like one of my favorite shots that we did, just because it was sort of one of those accidental, oh my god things and it turned out even better than I could have imagined it would have designed it that way from beginning.
So music business was really fun, and like I said before, it was a great opportunity and a great chance as a Designer to get a chance to sort of explore my own voice.
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