Blog

Typography and Lettering of Prince Singles

In 1988 I bought ‘Lovesexy’ to listen to on my walkman on a school trip to France. After that I was hooked until the mid 1990s when my tastes broadened and encompassed other genres and artists.

When I heard about Prince’s death I didn’t want to listen to the music – music that has brought me so much joy – it didn’t seem right to listen to it while sad. Instead I turned to my vinyl collection, not to play, but to look at. Ah… the comfort in those the magic words ‘Produced, arranged, composed and performed by Prince’. I started to realise that the graphic design of these records that surrounded me in my formative years had as much influence on me as had the music.

Prince’s style, be it fashion, music, photography or graphics changed from album to album. There is so much variety, even b-sides get special design treatment. I wanted to put this post together to celebrate the typography and lettering, concentrating on singles.

While writing this post I put a couple of names to the designers, big up Laura LiPuma Nash, Jay Vigon, Margo Chase and Tom Recchion. Work prior to 1984 unfortunately goes uncredited.

All the singles featured are from my own collection.
Prince - Purple Rain

Purple Rain

From the album

Purple Rain  

Date

1984    

Format

7” Single  
Purple Rain launched Prince into the mainstream. The logotype designed by Jay Vigon should be recognised as contributing to the success. The bespoke lettering is perfect with it’s diacritic raindrop. It was used for the film, album and single.
Prince - 1999

1999

From the album

1999  

Date

1982    

Format

7” Single  
The type of this 1999 French release is quite different from the British and American one. I can only assume a choice was made to go with something a little less risqué.
Prince - U Got The Look

U Got The Look

From the album

Sign O' The Times  

Date

1987    

Format

7” Single  
Bodoni has been used here and on the other singles ‘If I Was Your Girlfriend’ and ‘I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man’ from the ‘Sign O’ The Times’ album. While the albums’ namesake uses the bespoke logotype. Design is most likely by Laura LiPuma Nash Graphic Designer at Warner Bros. Records.
Prince - Scandalous

Scandalous

From the album

Batman  

Date

1989    

Format

7” Single  
While the first three singles from the ‘Batman’ album very much stayed in keeping with the film and album brand, ‘Scandalous’ exploded with wonderful design and the lettering appears to scream with a shudder through it. The single is credited with design by Tom Recchion and Photography by Jeff Katz. The 12” has an extended title ‘The Scandalous Sex Suite’.
Prince - Glam Slam

Glam Slam

From the album

Lovesexy  

Date

1988    

Format

7” Single  
All three singles from ‘Lovesexy’; ‘Alphabet St.’, ‘Glam Slam’ and ‘I Wish U Heaven’ use the same Lovesexy style lettering, where an ‘eye’ is used for ‘i’. Lettering by Margo Chase. Design could be by Laura LiPuma Nash but this single design is not credited to her where as ‘I Wish You Heaven’ is.
Prince - Pop Life

Pop Life

From the album

Around The World In A Day  

Date

1985    

Format

7” Single  
Three out of four singles from ‘Around The World In A Day’ feature elements of Doug Henders album illustration. All of them have unique lettering. The b-side to this UK release has ‘Girl’ written in the ‘Paisley Park’ style but in the shape of a circle. The design is most likely by Laura LiPuma Nash Graphic Designer at Warner Bros. Records.
Prince - Thieves in the temple

Thieves In The Temple

From the album

Graffiti Bridge  

Date

1990    

Format

7” Single  
This single uses the same lettering as the ‘Graffiti Bridge’ album artwork there is a definite feel of the 1990s here. Lettering by Margo Chase. Artwork credited to Tom Recchion and photography by Bob McNamara.
Prince - Let’s Go Crazy

Let’s Go Crazy

From the album

Purple Rain  

Date

1984    

Format

12” Single  
Each single from ‘Purple Rain’ uses a unique typeface or lettering. ‘Let's Go Crazy’ and ‘Purple Rain’ being more memorable perhaps due to the bespoke lettering and suitability to the subject matter. Design is by Laura LiPuma Nash Graphic Designer at Warner Bros. Records. It was Laura who spotted the ‘Love Symbol’ on the motorbike and sketched it up for future graphic design use.
Prince - Sign O' the Times

Sign O’ The Times

From the album

Sign O’ The Times  

Date

1987    

Format

7” Single  
This single always stands out for me as unusual (but brilliant) as Prince sings about about contemporary 1980s life; drugs, guns, AIDS, hunger, bombs. The lettering reflects that with the CND symbol and it’s grungy style. All the other singles from ‘Sign O’ The Times’ use Bodoni typeface. Design is most likely by Laura LiPuma Nash Graphic Designer at Warner Bros. Records.
Prince - New Power Generation

New Power Generation

From the album

Graffiti Bridge  

Date

1990    

Format

7” Single  
With a late 1980s and early 1990s feel NPG feels playful and childlike. The lettering stands alone from the ‘Graffiti Bridge’ art work and lettering. Lettering by Margo Chase, design is most probably by Tom Recchion.
Prince - Take me with u

Take Me With U

From the album

Purple Rain  

Date

1985    

Format

Double A-side 7” Single  
This typeface has eluded me! I’m hoping the design community can help me out. I do like the way the light font has fit into the slab serif. Design is most likely by Laura LiPuma Nash Graphic Designer at Warner Bros. Records.
Prince - Raspberry Beret

Raspberry Beret

From the album

Around The World In A Day  

Date

1985    

Format

7” Single  
Three out of four singles from ‘Around The World In A Day’ feature elements of Doug Henders album illustration. All of them have unique lettering. The b-side to this UK release has ‘Hello’ written in the ‘Paisley Park’ style but in the shape of a circle. Design is most likely by Laura LiPuma Nash Graphic Designer at Warner Bros. Records.
Prince - 1999

1999

From the album

1999  

Date

1982    

Format

12” Single  
It’s unusual that this 1999 single looks just like the cover of the album. 1999 is my favourite period of Prince design and photography, I like the unpolished nature of it. I can’t find anyone to credit, perhaps Prince himself was the artist? The design features elements from the previous album Controversy and the number one in the ‘1999’ has a phallic shape.
Paisley Park Prince - Paisley Park

Paisley Park

From the album

Around The World In A Day  

Date

1985    

Format

7” Single  
The iconic logo of Prince’s studio shares the name and lettering for this single. Most of the singles from the ‘Around The World In A Day’ album feature elements of the illustrated album art work by Doug Henders, but this one goes all out on the paisley theme. The b-sides for some of the other singles have the same typography but in a circle rather than a paisley shape. Lettering by Margo Chase, the design is most likely by Laura LiPuma Nash Graphic Designer at Warner Bros. Records.
Anotherloverholeinyohead Prince - Anotherloverholeinyohead

Anotherlover holenyohead

From the album

Parade  

Date

1986    

Format

7” Single  
Romeo typeface is used here doubling it up with nice effect. ‘Parade’ photography and design was very stripped back compared to previous album and single releases. Photography is black and white, typefaces are classy and grown up. It all fits in nicely with the film ‘Under The Cherry Moon’ filmed in black and white and set France. Laura LiPuma Nash Graphic Designer at Warner Bros. Records convinced Prince to take the design in this direction.
Prince - Gett Off

Gett Off

From the album

Diamonds and Pearls  

Date

1991    

Format

12” Single  
I’m not a huge fan of the ‘Diamonds and Pearls’ aesthetic so I like that this single breaks away from it. It’s nice to know these are the scribblings of Prince (with lots of drawing and mirror lettering on the back of the single). He is credited, but as ECNIRP, Prince spelt backwards.
Prince - Erotic City

Erotic City (b-side of Let’s Go Crazy)

From the album

Purple Rain  

Date

1984    

Format

12” Single  
Each single from Purple Rain uses a unique typeface or lettering. It’s most satisfying when the b-side titles feature bespoke designs too. Design is by Laura LiPuma Nash Graphic Designer at Warner Bros. Records. It was Laura who spotted the ‘Love Symbol’ on the motorbike on the front photo, sketched it up and used it here for the first time.
Prince - I would die for u

I Would Die For U

From the album

Purple Rain  

Date

1984    

Format

12” Single  
Each single from ‘Purple Rain’ uses a unique typeface or lettering. ‘I Would Die For U’ uses Karnac typeface. Karnac is also used for ‘God’ the b-side of ‘Purple Rain’. Design is most likely by Laura LiPuma Nash Graphic Designer at Warner Bros. Records.
Prince - The Future

The Future

From the album

Batman  

Date

1990    

Format

12” Single  
While the first three singles from the Batman album very much stayed in keeping with the film and album brand, Scandalous exploded with wonderful design and the lettering appears to scream. The Future is more sedate and cool. Photography by Matthew Rolston and design by Tom Recchion. Remix by William Orbit.
Prince - Another Lonely Christmas

Another Lonely Christmas (b-side of I Would Die For U)

From the album

1999  

Date

1982    

Format

12” Single  
Each single from ‘Purple Rain’ uses a unique typeface or lettering. It’s most satisfying when the b-side title feature bespoke lettering too. Design is most likely by Laura LiPuma Nash Graphic Designer at Warner Bros. Records.
Prince - Let’s pretend We’re Married

Let’s Pretend We’re Married

From the album

1999  

Date

1983    

Format

12” Single  
Perhaps a little thrown together “use that image we have and cut out the Prince name from the LP and make sure everyone knows its a maxi single” I do however like the lettering for ‘Let’s Pretend We’re Married’.
Prince - America

America

From the album

Around The World In A Day  

Date

1985    

Format

12” Single  
Three out of four singles from ‘Around The World In A Day’ feature elements of Doug Henders album illustration. All of them have unique lettering. This uses a slightly grungier version of the Superstar typeface. Unusually on this one there is no text on the cover - just a boy with an American flag. This shows the flip side and you can also get an peek at the typeface used for b-side ‘Girl’. Design is most likely by Laura LiPuma Nash Graphic Designer at Warner Bros. Records.

If you like this blog post you will also like

11 Comments

Modernaire May 27th, 2016

Great to point the graphics of Prince out. I loved Prince’s graphic design and album cover artwork that I ended up choosing graphic design and art direction for career.

As a teen I would redraw the ‘Around In The World In A Day’ psychedelic logotypes and even the ‘Sign “☮” The Times’ hand lettering, all exactly to the tee, here’s an example of my hand re-drawing at 17 year of age: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/389491067746867457/

All straight PEN, no pencil, no tracing, hand drawn.. exactly like how the SOTT lettering was done.

Years later while attending my art and design college coincidently one of my design professors was one of the designers that worked on Prince album covers at Warner Bros. She said, the SOTT album lettering was ALL hand done, Bodoni was used for the lyrics and some of the singles song titles.

From Around The World in A Day to Graffiti Bridge, those logotypes were created by Margo Chase who worked for many big labels and names. She was a medical illustrator from what I remember when she gave a presentation at Otis. I was thrilled to have her at my school! Crazy coincidences, I have many more in terms of Prince.

Anyway, the point I want to make is that Prince was engaged in creating the album artwork for his Warner Bros Records years HOWEVER real, talented, tasteful art directors and graphic designers MADE SURE that Prince’s vision was done correctly, spectacularly and with a real sense of design and art. Most of it was pre-computer based graphics mind you or early early PaintBox graphics like the Lovesexy album cover.

After Warner Bros, Prince hired a sole illustrator who didn’t have the level of talent in typography, graphic design but was a really, really talented and gifted painter and illustrator. Prince’s albums took a complete nose dive in terms of artwork and packaging, even photography wasn’t as good as say the work of Jeff Katz. There were two designer Prince used after WB that weren’t on the level that WB had and PROVIDED back in the day.

This is true and you will see it if you know anything about graphic design, proper art direction and you’re honest with what you are seeing, it’s there.

Thanks for focusing on this element, perhaps we’ll hear stories from the designers and art departments at Warner Bros Records.

PS – I know, why are you supporting a big record label? They hired the right people, and did offer a level of support, talented support that simply wasn’t something that was there post WB because of Prince’s independent status, he had to deal with many of the logistics himself, including album packaging in which he hovered over the shoulders of his “graphic designers”, the worst thing to do to a graphic designer/art director.

Reply
Jane June 13th, 2016

Hi Modernaire

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment on the post. Really pleased to be able to credit Margo Chase – her work is wonderful. I do hope some designers get in touch – it would be great to hear their stories.

Thanks again, Jane

Reply
Gaz July 27th, 2017

Lovely work and nice to see the typography singled out.
My fav is the Lovesexy typography.
You might want to amend the Under the Cherry Moon date reference
😎

Reply
Jane July 29th, 2017

Hi Josh. Thanks for the information – so sad to read about Margo Chase. Jane

Reply
Donita October 1st, 2017

Seems as if some of the info in this article is incorrect like I Would Die For You is not from the 1999 album but from the Purple Rain album amongst other things

Reply
Jane October 11th, 2017

Ah yes – you are quite right. I’ve checked through the page and hopefully got all the amends! Cheers

Reply
Daniel November 15th, 2017

Lovesexy typography is something amazing. Really liked the concept of being singled out. Thanks for sharing it. I’m bookmarking your blog for future reference as I may need it in my next logo design project.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

(required)

Close