The Allman Brothers Band

Design Firm Hits a High Note

March 8, 2002
By Walter Kita
New Haven Register
Reprinted with permission

HAMDEN — Dan Forth knows it’s only rock ‘n’ roll, but he loves it — and so does everyone else at the Hamden design firm Vivid Images Worldwide.

More to the point, the company’s clients — bands like the Allman Brothers, King Crimson, Blue Oyster Cult and Deep Purple — love the work Vivid Images has done for them.

From CD packaging and covers to posters and Web site design, Vivid Images is chiseling a niche for itself in the rock ‘n’ roll landscape, a niche that puts the company squarely in the heart of the lucrative “baby boom” generation.

“We understand how important the right image — the right attitude — is to selling a band’s music, because this is the music we grew up with,” said Forth, company president and a former executive with music giant Sony.

“A lot of the advertising and promotional material designed for our generation misses the point, or it’s just plain awful.”

“Oldies” radio formats, in particular, strike a bad chord with Forth. The 49-year-old grew up in Hamden and got his start in the music biz at WPLR in the early 1970s, an era in which radio wasn’t so heavily formatted.

The most business savvy member of the Vivid Images team, Forth has been with the company for only a few weeks.

After 20 years of commuting to New York City from his home in Weston, he’s now working less than a mile from his alma mater, Hamden High School.

The musical heart and soul of Vivid Images is embodied in the person of its creative director — who in the tradition of Prince, Madonna and Cher — goes by only one moniker: “Ioannis.” The ebullient native of Greece, who moved to Connecticut as a child, lives for the music and his art which adorns the covers of new releases by Blue Oyster Cult, Deep Purple and King Crimson.

His original paintings cover the company’s offices, along with autographed photographs of the band members.

Much of his work combines elements of ’60s and ’70s psychedelia with fantasy imagery popularized by artists like Frank Frazetta. A cover he did for the band “Art in America” appears in a book, “One Thousand Best Rock Covers of All Time.” “The band was around for about 10 minutes, but it was great to see that my work lives on in the book,” said Ioannis, who worked for years as a free-lance graphic designer and art director after graduating from the University of Bridgeport.

For the new King Crimson CD cover, Ioannis and the band agreed to a more contemporary monochromatic design, one better reflective of the current taste’s of the band’s quirky lead guitarist, Robert Fripp.

Sometimes, a band or the record label knows exactly what it wants, but often questions about the look and feel of a CD cover are decided by committee.

Ioannis describes it as political, but to hear him talk about it, the process more closely resembles anarchy.

“Sometimes, it comes down to one of the wives saying ‘I want green sky instead of blue,'” Ioannis said. “I’ve learned in those situations it’s best not to argue. Just change it.”

For the Allman Brothers Band last recording the group had only one requirement. The cover had to have a mushroom. Ioannis did several mock ups, and guitarist Dickie Betts made the final call.

“He said ‘Man, that captures it,'” said Ioannis, recalling Betts’ reaction. And then Betts’ uttered the phrase that became the record’s title.

“That says to me ‘Back Where it all Began,” Ioannis remembers him saying.

But the way Forth and Ioannis see it, the real beginning for Vivid Images Worldwide is now, as the company expands its reach into the digital realm of Web design, into magazine and other printed promotional formats and beyond.

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