Jeri Heiden

The designer of True Blue and The Immaculate Collection covers talks about the process of designing for Madonna.

Jeri Heiden designed the covers of madonna's best-sellers such as "true blue" and "the immaculate collection" and also some of her singles. the immaculate designer told us about her projects for the queen of pop.

We celebrate the 30th anniversary of Madonna's career this year. When it comes to designing her albums and singles covers you've been with her almost from the beginning. Tell us more about your very first time working with Madonna.

I first worked with Madonna on the fifth single off her debut album "Madonna". The single was "Borderline" which was released in 1984. We had run out of photos to use from the album shoot (by Gary Heery), so we had George Holz do a quick press photo shoot with her while she was in L.A. "Borderline" features those photos and signature cut paper swirls and designs that I was fond of at the time.  I designed a 12" maxi-single and a 7" poster-fold single.

Jeri Heiden's designs of "Borderline"

We always wondered how the process of choosing particular photos was developed. If we talk about Like A Virgin or True Blue cover there are iconic and stunning photo shoots involved. Did you received already chosen photos or you did that yourself and then present to Madonna and her team?

For both "Like A Virgin" and "True Blue" photographers were most likely suggested by my boss and Creative Director at that time, Jeff Ayeroff. Like a Virgin was shot by Steven Meisel, who was emerging as one of the top fashion photographers in the mid-80's. True Blue was shot by Herb Ritts. Both photographers would go on to work with Madonna extensively. Steven Meisel would go on to collaborate with Madonna on her 1992 book - "Sex", and Herb Ritts directed her video for "Cherish" and we would use his photos again for the "Immaculate Collection" packaging. I received unedited photo shoots (contact sheets and transparencies) in both cases and edited the photos down to our top picks. We'd then order prints and prepare numerous cover comps for Madonna's approval.

Contact sheet for "True Blue"

Numerous? Anyone who worked with Madonna always tell us one thing – she likes options! Obviously it was the same in your case too? How many configurations of the same cover you were presenting to her with each album?

I think it's safe to say that most major pop artists like options! It would not be unusual to show 20-40 cover ideas for an artist like Madonna. And then revisions to the favorites until an approval is achieved. It's a process. Sometimes it's a really long process.

We are really intrigued about The Immaculate Collection artwork you co-designed along with John Heiden - tell us more about this. Was the „immaculate conception” thing your idea to play with the title and Vatican controversies around Madonna at the time? Logotype surely reminds us Pope's emblem!

"The Immaculate Collection" was most definitely a play-on-words and reference to immaculate conception! Madonna has always pushed the envelope when it comes to religion and religious iconography in her images, videos and tours. The logo design was both a reference to the Vatican and a nod to her Jean-Paul Gaultier designed corset from the tour.

Contact sheet for "The Immaculate Collection"

We read somewhere that originally it was meant to be called "Ultra Madonna" which is pretty uninspired name by the way but luckily later it was changed to "The Immaculate Collection". But did you started working on "Ultra madonna" concept?

That is true. The title "Ultra Madonna" was abandoned when a dance/house artist named Ultra Nate was charting around the same time. The powers-that-be at the record company thought it better to avoid the "Ultra" moniker. "Immaculate Collection" is definitely better.

Was there a version of The Immaculate Collection you prepared with Madonna's face on the cover? It's pretty brave to left an artist's image out of greatest hits collection especially when it comes to Madonna who works with her face as much as with her voice!

I don't believe we ever showed a cover option that included her image. It was a pretty bold move at the time! If I recall, we didn't have a new photo shoot or images to work with until the last minute. The cover was approved first, and the Herb Ritts photos came later. We made sure that her photo was included in all of the advertising and merchandising though. I don't think it hurt sales. "The Immaculate Collection" is a perennial best-seller, having sold more than 30 million copies worldwide.

When it comes to designing covers what's the most important thing for you?

Every cover design is different. But mainly I want the artist and their fans to be delighted, and feel that the cover reflects their creative intentions for the album. If it's a true reflection of that it has the potential to become iconic over time.

You've worked with many artists and stars but if you have to choose one favourite cover of yours – which one it would be and why?

I can't answer that without pissing off my clients, haha.

Jeri, thank you for this little chat.


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