Designing My First Album Cover - Dave Doobinin "The Left Side"

Late last year, a dear friend of mine asked me to design the cover for his forthcoming record.  I've known Dave Doobinin for many years and absolutely love his music, so this should have been a no-brainer. The only hitch was that I'd never designed an album cover before.

Music is a huge part of my life, some of my most beloved friends are musicians, I even worked in the music business in Austin, New York City & San Francisco.  I used to write about music and review records, and a bad album cover could justifiably turn me off from wanting to listen to a band.

The pressure was on.

Dave told me the title of the album and an image instantly sprang to mind.  I made a quick, rough sketch in pencil and sent it to him.  He loved it.  I would just need to start on the full color final art.  I thought to myself, "Could it be this easy?" 


Then Dave called me about a week later.  He sounded sheepish.  "I have to change the title of the album," he said.  Of course I understood, it's his creation, he has to do whatever he needs to make it right.  Then he told me the new title, and I knew I had to start over from scratch.

The new title, The Left Side, didn't immediately evoke any images for me, and I had a bit of trouble getting my head around what it meant to Dave.  We talked about it over the phone, and I listened to the rough mixes of the songs he sent me, but no clear images were coming to me.  I almost always get an instinctual image out of nowhere, but not this time.

Dave Doobinin photo by Paul De Luna

Dave Doobinin photo by Paul De Luna

He took the title from one his father’s wise quips. “That was something he always said, it was like ‘Are you tough? Do you have it on the left side?’ It was a poignant line for me as a kid,” Doobinin reveals. “This record is about breaking through that self-questioning through, first, acknowledgement, and then standing up to it,” he says.

That's when the doubt crept in.  What was I thinking, saying yes to this?  I've never designed an album cover before.  I was stressing out.  

I had to calm my fears and remind myself I was trying something new, and that it was going to take some patience and discovery.  Naturally, once I cleared my thoughts my intuition kicked in.  I was led to a catalog from the 1920's that I'd bought a year or two prior.  I was mesmerized by the images of machine parts. I know I'm on to something whenever it sticks in my mind or I can't stop staring at it.  I listened to the album over & over and played with the shapes until eventually a heart emerged.  

It's important to me that my designs have mystery, but I also want there to be a meaning behind them.  I loved the juxtaposition of the softness of the heart with the hard, cold machine parts and how the machine parts portrayed the complexity of emotion in all of Dave's songs.  After sending some collage sketches back and forth with Dave, we finally agreed on a treatment we both loved for the front and back covers.  

I busted out my scissors, bought some rubber cement, put the album on repeat and made a 12" x 12" collage, knowing that it will come out on vinyl at some point.  

This is the album cover I designed for Dave Doobinin's The Left Side:

I was really happy with the finished product, and so grateful to my friend Dave for giving me the opportunity to push myself creatively.  I'm ready for my next album cover.  Hire me!

  • Dave Doobinin's The Left Side is available now - BUY IT ON ITUNES

Watch this beautiful video for "Freddy & Barbara" - Dave shot it, edited it and stars in it with Briana Winter who sings on the song as well.