“Cleaning up the girls”: Elegant Angel’s elegant boxcovers

“90 percent of my work is cleaning up the girls,” says graphic designer/director Carlos Dee of his job designing boxcovers for Elegant Angel. “We’ve evolved to a very clean, simple style.”

Collaborating with Elegant Angel production manager/director Graham Travis, Dee either shoots the covers himself or makes boxcovers out of the stills shot by fellow directors Mason, LT, Travis, and William H.

I receive hundreds of porn DVDs a month—I’m not complaining—and I find I am more drawn to uncrowded cover art. The other day I saw a boxcover with 131 disembodied asses (Mike Adriano’s “Mad Asses“) and thought, “This cover is lousy with asses. I’m tired.”

Sadly, the “busy” boxcover is more the norm for an industry that forgets that one—maybe two—naked women at a time are all most people need.

Graham Travis says it took a while for Elegant Angel to become simple.

“The original idea for the covers was inspired by men’s magazines like FHM and Loaded,” Travis says. “I grew up in the 90’s and that’s when those magazines suddenly took over shelf space in local stores. I thought there were a lot of similar principles that could apply to porn DVDs, because they were both trying to accomplish the same objective.”

I’ll stop by a few video stores every other month to find out what is selling (sometimes, believe it or not, I cannot trust the bestseller lists of adult trade publications). While I universally hear that the top renters are Anabolic-style “10,000 Cumshots!” compilations, the boxcovers that most stand out from the crowd are the simple ones, just as American Apparel ads—which share Elegant Angel’s single message: The Girl—are so striking on billboards.

Travis agrees:

“The new release sections in stores looked so cluttered. We wanted to stand out in a simplistic and dynamic way and say something about the brand, creating a consistent identity. We wanted people to know an Elegant Angel box cover the moment they saw it.”

Dee says he sees cleaner design popping up everywhere.

“Especially in food packaging,” he says.

The less is more aesthetic has been taking hold for several years at Elegant Angel. Dee and Travis point as far back as 2005 and 2006 for evidence of the simpler style emerging, such as “Slave Dolls 2” (one of Katsumi’s last appearances before she became “Katsuni” for legal reasons) and “Swallow My Squirt.”

Dee has been an adult biz graphic artist for 11 years, working at Metro and the late Leisure Time before signing on with Elegant Angel full time six years ago. He notes that the workflow has changed with the design.

“When I was with Metro (ten years ago), we still had chromes (photographic transparencies) and guys who would ‘pull chromes,'” he says. “Then they’d send the chromes to Great Western Visuals for drum scans (high resolution optical scanning), then those scans would come back to me for the design. Now I do it (with a camera and Photoshop).”

Scanning through the company’s last few years of boxcovers is an elegant document of a generation of porn stars looking their best. Dee notes that the company started uncluttering the cover art by blurring backgrounds, then removing them, leaving just The Girl.

“I could come up with the best title treatment and we could have great ideas (for covers),” Dee says. “But it starts and ends with the girls.”

Previously on Porn Valley Observed: “Bush”—I’m starting to feel vertically integrated; Katsuni—so sue me; The “Seduction” of Kristina Rose, others; “Portrait of A Call Girl” has a lot to say; Jayden Jaymes—pleased to unleash you; Tori Black, you is my plumber now
See Also: Elegant Angel boxcovers

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