An album design can do two very important things, sometimes separately, and sometimes together.
It can inform the listener in a reassuring way, providing an explanation of what is about to happen. When you see a punk album, you know that it is a punk album. Aiming for the target audience will certainly provide easy access to your music by the correct listener. Your listener will pick up your style while fast-scrolling on Spotify or looking for something new in the store.
On the other hand, an album cover can also hint that the content under the album cover is fresher than wet paint, high likely unexpected, probably something that has never been done before, and is in need of an open minded listener. All that without even hinting a style, which leads the curiosity to the next level. This non-genre based covers have a target audience in mind as well, a very broad spectrum of people, yet very selective when it comes to taste, will go for the new look simply because it creates this heavy curiosity to figure out what is this album cover hiding underneath.
Combining the two is possible. If this was not to be so, there wouldn’t be evolution in the stylistic sense, neither in the design, nor in the music.
Following the rules of design, giving the audience the expectation (promising punk) and satisfaction (it looks amazing) does not mean that you can’t create curiosity by bending or breaking some rules (it has a heavy string quartet as a part of the band). Design can hint the mindset of the creation process, and now the audience knows what's on her plate and listens to the music, confirming that indeed it is a punk album but it has lots of risk takingly new and amazing content.
Our designers at AlbumCoverZone keep the great designers of all times as reference for their own work. They were the ones that followed the rules to a certain point with which you can figure out what is about to happen behind the cover of the album, but they also were the ones who wrote their own rules which became the tradition to follow for the new born designers.
In AlbumCoverZone, we study the impact that has been done by the best designers, analyse the after effects of their masterpieces, their historical and geographical placement with the sense of aesthetics of their times taken into consideration.
We care deeply about following the tradition. After all, not every musician is wholeheartedly saying “I want my music to be unique and not like anything else”. There is serious game within the tradition; the best player of the tradition will always manage to stick out without needing to “bring things to a new level”. Virtuosistic gypsy jazz players, the most recent person to play 24 Paganini Capriccios live in the same concert, the carrier of the musical heritage of B.B. King and the medieval pipe master who aims to recreate with deep research the exact sound of the old times will fall into this category.
But we also keep it our mission to communicate to the musician that wants to be “the new thing”. Let’s be honest, without them, new genres would not have been born for the traditionalists to master in them. So here in AlbumCoverZone, you will encounter covers which are designed to inspire the listener to try something new, and other album covers which are designed to reassure the listener to the perfection of the music they are familiar with. Our Contemporary Classical and Modern Jazz sections are filled with covers that are especially to represent the new, the undone.
And now we will share part of our secret recipe for good design. Here’s a list with some of the many artists that will forever guide new generations of designers:
Alex Steinweiss (1917 - 2011)
Naturally, our list of 10 iconic album cover designers begins by naming the father of cover art design Alex Steinweiss. He is not only important for being the first, but also for defining the structural canons of album cover art, and for creating around 2.500 works.
Bob Cato (1923-1999)
His album cover designs contributed to the development of pop culture for decades. He made album covers for many artists such as Johnny Cash, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, and Janis Joplin. He received two Grammy awards for the Best Album Cover artwork.
Reid Miles (1927-1993)
Reid Miles was a modernist designer known for his album covers for Blue Note Records. Together with photographer Francis Wolff, they created the visual branding of the label. He made album covers for some of the greatest Jazz cats of all time such as John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Herbie Hancock, and Thelonious Monk.
Hipgnosis was an English art design group that made iconic album covers for rock musicians and bands such as Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, between many other important names.
Peter Blake (born 1932)
Often referred to as 'the godfather of pop', Sir Peter Blake is a big reference in the Pop Art genre. In the album cover world he designed the famous cover for The Beatles “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. He also designed album covers for The Who, Eric Clapton, and Oasis.
Storm Thorgerson (1944-2013)
Storm Thorgerson is one of the most iconic cover art designers of all times. He is the creator of the covers such as “The Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Division Bell” from Pink Floyd, “Absolution” from Muse, and “Wake Up and Smell the Coffee” from The Cranberries.
Roger Dean (born 1944)
Known for his exotic fantasy landscapes, Roger Dean designed iconic covers for the band Yes and Asia. He created worlds of his own that portrayed the covers of prog rock. His vision of the genre become the core visual element of progressive rock for decades.
Derek Riggs (born 1958)
Sometimes designing an album cover does not stop right there. With his conceptual works Derek Riggs is best known for his covers for the band Iron Maiden “The Number of the Beast”, “Peace of Mind”. Besides his album cover designs, he is known for creating the band’s mascot “Eddie”.
David Stone Martin (1913-1992)
This American artist is best known for his designs for Jazz albums. Contemporary music going hand in hand with contemporary visual art was the drive in this era, and even today we associate a fresh painting with fresh music. He made illustrations for the music of Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, and Ella Fitzgerald. His iconic albums were drawn with heavy black-ink lines.
Richard Hamilton (1922-2011)
English painter and collage artist, Richard Hamilton is the creator of iconic “The White Album” from The Beatles, becoming one of the most recognizable covers of pop culture of all times. This cover lead later other bands to release their own monochrome album covers.