Elise Erikson Barrett “Valley: Hymns for Travelers” Album Identity


This was an unusual project for me as someone who is focusing on visual identity design, because it wasn’t a visual identity as you might normally think of it. Rather than an identity for a business or organization’s brand, it was for a musician’s album. Instead of a brand or word mark as the centerpiece, it was an album cover; instead of letterheads and business cards, a concert poster and promos for social media. While I don’t normally take on projects like this, sometimes the right idea or situation can be compelling enough to do something interesting and new, and I’m glad I did.

Valley: Hymns for Travelers

Elise Erikson Barrett is a local musician in Indianapolis. She was preparing to record her second album—a collection of hymns with an acoustic, front porch sound—and approached me to design the album’s packaging and promotional materials.


To evoke a sincere, approachable, trustworthy message or, “space,” appropriate for “the kind of songs that accompany you through your daily life,” with consideration for a primary audience of mothers in their 30s and 40s, and those who have experienced hardship and difficult circumstances in life.

Research & Exploration

Elise told me that she wanted the songs on the album to be something that her audience could carry with them as a source of comfort in hardship. The idea of “everyday hardship” came out as an important concept in our discovery conversations, and lead me to start my research by asking the question, “What does everyday hardship look like for mothers?”

A key insight into this question came from a study on how motherhood has changed in recent years:

Despite the availability of [online] networks and more immediate support in the family and community, many mothers feel socially isolated, especially those aged between 35 and 44.

The research brought me along to the idea that, for mothers in Elise’s target audience, everyday hardship meant feeling isolated.

One of the goals of the design was to use the album packaging to create an inviting space. I used three questions in my research to help guide decisions that would accomplish this, and began finding answers by looking at ideas from interior design, and observing areas of social media to see what Elise’s target audience considered to be inviting or comforting.

  • What color is that space?
    Warm, neutral colors with natural light.
  • What shape is that space?
    Open, but with a point of focus.
  • What textures make it up?
    Soft textures, like felt.

Even with those insights, I also wanted to get some direct answers from the target audience, so I put together a survey to ask some more specific questions.

Twitter post with survey link

Most of the information verified what I already understood from other sources, but I also asked the respondents to, “Describe an environment or space that would be comforting and inviting to you at the end of a long, difficult day.” The responses included things like quiet, solitude, and viewing or being in nature. All this information together was a good place to begin working from.

Elise and I also talked about the way people grow, and the role that hardship plays in that. She had divided the hymns on the album into three sets, each focusing on a stage of growth: fresh, new joy; a valley of trials or suffering; rich, renewed joy after the valley. It wasn’t an explicit goal to try and get this entire idea across, but since it was a theme in Elise’s thoughts about the hymns themselves, I kept it in mind and did end up finding some ways to weave it in with the larger goals.

After all the research, I decided to approach a connection with the audience, and creating an inviting space, by designing the packaging as a narrative that moves from sorrow and isolation, to comfort and closeness. Using a six-panel, folding case provided a great opportunity for this approach, since it would have three stages to work with as it’s unfolded.

“After all the research, I decided to approach a connection with the audience, and creating an inviting space, by designing the packaging as a narrative that moves from sorrow and isolation, to comfort and closeness.”

From early in the project, it was clear that photography would play a major role. I partnered with Cait Morgan for her excellent quality, and extensive experience with the target audience. Cait was a fantastic creative partner. She soaked up the research, meaningfully engaged with the ideas driving the directions I wanted to explore, and made them richer with her approach and execution. The photography supported the ideas behind the album wonderfully, and were beautiful and effective materials for crafting the final concept.

Final Concept

Album Art

The type is classical, like you’d find in a hymnal. The colors are contemporary, and calming, while the visual scale helps emphasize a feeling of isolation. The presence of another person’s gaze, and the doorway or window created by the border is an invitation that brings the viewer in.

Valley: Hymns for Travelers

The center panel is always considered to be analogous of being in “the valley”. Here, the environment obscures the view, and Elise is shown positioned low, and in shadow. The portrait shot is closer in, but doesn’t have a direct gaze like on the cover, so it’s a movement toward closeness, but not quite there yet. Her eyes look left, which helps move the viewer over to the song listing, and further into the narrative.

Inner Flap

The panels on the interior are analogous of fresh, new joy, a valley of trials or suffering, and rich, renewed joy and growth after the valley. The final portrait is close, personal, and comforting, represented literally by the cozy quilt blanket, along with a feeling of approachability, and a sincere, trustworthy, inviting gaze. The disc is the same color as the red on the quilt, representing comfort and the hope of Jesus’ blood and righteousness, as sung in the album’s opening hymn.

Inside Package

The back is a quiet postlude, and the other side of the entryway on the front; the end of the narrative.

Back of Package


The poster includes space to fill in concert or promotional information, and is sized to print at either 11×17 or 8.5×11, when printed without the bottom area.

Poster design

Social Media

The social media images were designed to help build anticipation and promote awareness of the album release on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They included images for posts, and for profiles.

"Coming Soon" image for Facebook

"Coming Tomorrow" image for Instagram

Facebook Page

Twitter Page

“Ben is a creative, dedicated artist, but he’s more than that. He served as a creative partner and guide, listening deeply and helping draw out insights and vision for my album—intentions I hadn’t yet articulated. And the final project he delivered communicated the heart of the album’s story more beautifully than I could have imagined.”

Elise Erikson Barrett

FastCast+ Podcast Logo

FastCast+ Logo

FastCast+ Podcast is a travel planning podcast focused on Disney Parks. They provide a fun information gathering option for people who may feel overwhelmed with the many different options at Disney.


A logo that stands out among other similar podcasts, communicates honesty, fun, and a sense of story, and appeals to a target audience of tech-savvy 21–45 year-olds.

Research & Exploration

As with any project, I began with research. One of the helpful things I found out was that almost every single podcast that came up under “Disney” in iTunes filled the entire available area for their podcast art. I realized that a design with extra whitespace could break that rectangular shape, and draw people’s eyes to FastCast+.

FastCast+ in Search Context

After the research phase, I began sketching out several different directions, exploring various points of emphasis with the podcast’s name and its connection to Disney Parks and traveling.

The layout was inspired by passport stamps, supporting a visual association with world travel that is appropriate for the podcast’s occasional movement into non-Disney travel topics.

FastCast+ Sketching

I also explored different iconography to communicate the podcast’s topic, since “travel” and “Disney” are not part of the name. Simple icons built using basic shapes worked well for this, and prevented visual clutter.

Epcot Icon Progression

A major key to unifying the elements was found in the selection of Bariol and Bariol Serif as the typeface for both the logo and supporting elements. Bariol has a range of feels across its different weights. The light and thin weights are technical, modern, and formal, providing a confident voice that knows what it’s doing. The regular and bold weights are fun and relaxed, ready to be a kid again as soon as vacation starts!

FastCast+ Type Example

Final Concept

Once the concept was established, the design progressed through many iterations to find an effective balance.

The graphic elements in the logo were refined, taking cues from the Bariol Bold letter forms to create a complete lock-up unified in weight, contour and proportion. Two “plusses” are hinted in the bounding circle, symbolizing the podcast’s two hosts and the value they bring to their listeners.

FastCast+ Horizontal Logo

There are four icons within the logo, each representing a park at Disney World. The icons are simple enough to hold together in the brand mark, but are also fleshed-out enough to stand on their own and support park-specific content.

FastCast+ Park Icons

The color palette establishes visual hierarchy between the logo’s elements, and communicates honesty, fun, and excitement with blue-sky imagination and Mickey-Mouse-shorts happiness. The combined americana feel of the colors together primes listeners for the storytelling mindset of the podcast.

FastCast+ Colors

Finally, the type arrangement is designed to allow for flexibility with both current and future offerings under the FastCast+ brand.

FastCast+ Subbranding

New City Church Logo

New City Logo

New City Church is a church in Indianapolis dedicated to authentic, hands-on spirituality for people on the city’s east side. They try to help people “live the life Jesus died to give them”, and ideally act as, “a preview of what the Kingdom of Jesus is like”.

They approached me for a new logo design to convey New City’s culture, and provide a more distinctive identity than their previous logo.


A distinct, strong and established mark that conveys New City Church as honest, accessible, authentic, intriguing, and earnest.

Research and Exploration

New City is an unique church in several ways. They don’t meet in a church building, but rather in a local charter school. They have a strong local community, with most of the church’s members living within five miles or so of their meeting place. Their location in Irvington, Indiana, is an up-and-coming historical neighborhood bridging a middle-income suburban area, and a lower-income area on the east side of Indianapolis, so their potential attendees make up a wide range of socioeconomic statuses.

After researching characteristics of local churches, businesses, architecture, and other distinctive visual elements, I decided to look to Irvington’s elegant architecture, and the near east side’s bold painted sign lettering as inspiration for the final design. I began sketching to find a solution that would feel at home on the city’s east side, and convey the characteristics that New City Church embodies.

Research SketchesSketching while researching Irvington Architecture

The concept of a city gateway stood out among the various concepts I explored. A city gateway conveys strength and protection, as well as intrigue since it gives only a partial view of what’s beyond. Early versions took a more illustrative approach, but further reflection prompted me toward a simple and slightly abstract form, which helped to communicate the ideas behind the mark in an unmuddled way.

Early Concept SketchesEarly sketches of the gateway concept

Final Concept

The final mark was refined to meet New City Church’s goals.

New City Church Logo VersionsVertical and horizontal versions of the logo were also designed for New City’s unique use cases

The gateway is a distinctive mark, especially among church logos. Most church logos using architectural forms reference their own building. Instead, New City’s gateway mark is inspired by the local “Second Empire” and “Craftsman” architecture styles of Irvington.

The city gateway is designed with a minimal form, making it easily recognizable and leaving room for the church itself to communicate its full culture, rather than leaning too heavily on branded materials.

It is strong and established as a traditional gathering place for a city’s leaders, and a key point for defense against attackers. It is an immovable structure, yet its purpose is not primarily to keep out, but to let in, and offer protection.

The city gateway is also an honest, accessible, and authentic solution. It’s the place where the curious see in, and can access the city if they are intrigued by what they see.

The gateway resembles a lower-case “N”, acting as both a logo mark and a monogram.

Finally, the gateway represents the tomb of Christ—with no stone over the entrance, referencing Jesus as the Risen Lord.

The lettering complements the logo, and draws from the bold simplicity found in the near-east side’s painted sign lettering, while walking the line between common and sophisticated, just as New CIty’s culture does. It was made with a modified form of the Calluna Sans typeface. Calluna Sans and it’s serifed counterpart, Calluna, were also selected as the choice fonts for all New City Church materials.

“Our experience of the design process with Ben was informative and encouraging. He asked excellent clarifying questions in order to extract the essence of what we desired to communicate. The end product was something we would not have guessed in the beginning—but something we would not change in the end! All in all, this was a fantastic experience and we are thrilled with the outcome.”

Roger Williams
Senior Pastor,
New City Church