*The woman responsible for the art direction of Prince’s album covers from 1984 to 1988 is Laura LiPuma Nash, a native of University Heights, Ohio who was hired as a graphic designer at Warner Bros. Records in 1982, where Prince was signed.
“My favorite artist, by the way, was Prince, and I was thinking, ‘Maybe he’ll come into the office.’ He’d released ‘1999’ and it was soaring up the charts, and everyone was realizing this guy was on this major ascension,” Nash told Cleveland.com.
Nash still had not met His Royal Badness when she was given her first task for the artist – creating a design for one of the singles off of “1999.”
“Suddenly, we get word that he’s going to come out with this album, ‘Purple Rain,’ ” she said.
“One day – and I’ll never forget it – right before lunch, at about 11:30, my boss at the time came in with this look of panic on his face. It was a big art room, lots of desks and T-squares, and he came running in and looking around and going, ‘Where is everybody?’
“I look up and say, ‘Everybody went to lunch,’ and he said, ‘Prince just called and you gotta go meet him. He wants an art meeting, and it’s gotta happen NOW!’ ”
“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” she said. “I had to go meet with him when he was shooting the video for ‘When Doves Cry.’
“I met with him, and I was so altered that I don’t have that much memory of it,” said Nash, who added that the artist always had a thing for the Hostess snack treat Ding Dongs.
“He was magnetic, compelling, intimidating, ALWAYS smelled good,” she said.
Nash said the meeting and the video shoot and the photo session “were like a military operation – it was very structured.”
Soon, the two had formed a bond.
“From that point on, through ‘Lovesexy,’ I did every release for Prince from 1984 through 1988,” she said. “It just jelled.
“It’s not like we sat around and had a cup of coffee. He just knew that I ‘got’ him because I was a fan, and he liked my work.
“And it didn’t hurt that I was short and Italian,” said a laughing Nash, who eventually traded L.A. and her work with Prince for a promotion that required a move to Nashville.
Nash’s last album cover for Prince was the “Purple Rain” soundtrack.
“In the beginning, [Prince] had very specific ideas,” Nash said. “He wanted specific fonts and things like that.”
One of her treasured keepsakes is a note from Prince — handwritten in purple ink with a felt-tip pen, “talking about where to locate things like the required block with information about the film, and how to position what Prince called the “Dig If You Will dialogue.”
Below, Prince’s instructions carried out by Nash:
Nash also came up with a tweaked version of Prince’s symbol that briefly became his official name.
“When I was designing ‘Purple Rain,’ I was scrutinizing the movie-poster art and noticed a small red symbol on the gas tank of the motorcycle,” she said.
“I had to take a loupe to see what it was, because it was that small,” she said. “It was the male-female symbol combined.”
She did her own version of it, which was used in the advertising and packaging for “Purple Rain.” It was that symbol — in a very stylized form — that eventually became Prince’s “name.”
Nash’s favorite cover with Prince was the 1986 release “Parade,” she said. One reason is that the relationship had evolved to the point where Prince trusted her enough to provide input.
“The reason I love it is that it’s really stripped-down,” Nash said. “He wanted to use this black-and-white photo that was OK, but it wasn’t great.
“I asked his management if I could see the whole photo session, and I fell in love with the shots of him — they were very stark, with him tugging up his shirt. They were just SEXY.
“I thought, ‘How am I going to convince this guy to change his mind?”’ she said.
Eventually, Prince and his team came around.