Want to know more about album cover art and the artists WHO make it?
Over the years, there have been a number of books and articles written on the History of the Album Cover, covering the development of the art form from its humble beginnings as a simple sleeve with a title, to Alex Steinweiss and Jim Flora and their breakthrough works for Columbia and Decca Records in the 1930s/40s up to today’s most-recent efforts – and so, if you’re interested in learning more about the topic (or just in looking at the pictures), here are two lists that should help you quite a bit.
The first is a sample list of some books published on the subject. Many are written and compiled by well-known cover designers (Roger Dean, Richard Evans, Storm Thorgerson, Nick DeVille, Spencer Drate, others), so they bring an interesting spin to their respective compilations. With their authors’ various perspectives and experiences guiding their respective efforts, all are interesting in their own right and contain hundreds of images for you to enjoy. Please note that there are a number of other books that focus on the works of a particular artist or studio, but I haven’t included those in the following list in order to keep its length reasonable. A simple search on your favorite search engine will deliver those results to you quickly…
The second is a list of links to well-curated websites and print publications covering a number of album cover-related topics, including album art search engines, album cover design, album cover artists, etc.
One of the earliest articles I’ve found on the topic was one by author/critic Thomas Albright published in the April 6th, 1968 issue of the then-new Rolling Stone Magazine titled “The New Album Art” in which he provides an overview of the “state of the art” in album packaging. You can find it on the magazine’s archive site – http://www.rollingstone.com/music/features/the-new-album-art-19680406 I think that it gives you a nice starting place in your ongoing exploration of the world of album cover art and the folks that make it.
Books about Album Covers (and the people WHO make them) –
A Brief History of Album Covers, by Jason Draper.
Published in 2008 by Flame Tree Publishing, U.K. ISBN-13: 978-1847862112
Album Art: New Music Graphics, by John Foster. Published in the U.K. in 2018 by Thames & Hudson. ISBN – 978-0-500-29415-4
Album: Classic Sleeve Design, by Nick de Ville. Published in the U.K. in 2006 by Mitchell Beazley. ISBN-13 978-1845331306
Album Cover Album, by Storm Thorgerson and Roger Dean, with aid from others including Vaughan Oliver. A series of several books on the topic, with the latest edition published in 2008 by Collins Design/Harper Collins Publishers, New York. ISBN 978-0-06-162695-1
The Album Cover Art of Punk, by Burkhardt Seiler and Malcolm McClaren. Published in 1999 by Gingko Press Ltd., UK. ISBN 978-3927258617
The Album Cover Art of Soundtracks, by Frank Jastfelder & Stefan Kassell (intro by designer Saul Bass). Published in 1997 by Little Brown & Co. ISBN-13: 978-0316482400
Album: Style & Image in Sleeve Design, by Nick de Ville. Published in the U.K. in 2003 by Mitchell Beazley. ISBN-13 978-1840006056
…And Justice For Art (Volumes 1, 2 and 3), by Ramon Oscuro Martos. Published in the U.S. (Volume 2 in 2018 and Volume 3 in 2020) by Dark Canvas. ISBN (Volume 3) – 978-1-7923-4167-0
Art & Vinyl: A Visual Record, edited by Jeffrey Fraenkel and Aintoine de Beaupre. Published in France in 2018 by Editions Antoine de Beaupre. ISBN – 978-2912794291
The Art of British Rock: 50 Years Of Posters, Flyers and Handbills – by Mike Evans. Published in 2010 by Frances Lincoln, U.K. ISBN-13: 978-0711231269
The Art of Gothic: Music + Fashion + Alt Culture – by Natasha Scharf. Published in 2014 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Corporation, Milwaukee, WI, USA. ISBN: 978-1-61713-602-3
The Art of Punk: The Illustrated History of Punk Rock Design, by Russ Bestley and Alex Ogg. Published in 2012 by Voyageur Press, MN, USA. ISBN 978-0760344101
The Art of the Album Cover – by Richard Evans. Published in 2010 by Chartwell Books, Inc., U.K. ISBN-13: 978-0785826774
The Art of the LP – Classic Album Covers 1955 – 1995, by Ben Wardle and Johnny Morgan. Published in 2010 by Sterling Publishing Co., New York. ISBN 978-1-4027-7113-2
Art Record Covers – by Francesco Spampinato and Julius Wiedemann. Published in 2017 by Taschen Books, Cologne, Germany. ISBN-13: 978-3836540292
The Best Music CD Art + Design, by Ted Drozdowski, Laurie Hoffma, Jason Fine & Sany Masuo. Published in 1997 by Rockport Publishers, MA, USA. ISBN 1-56496-367-5
The Book of Hip Hop Cover Art, by Andrew Emery. Published in the U.K. in 2004 by Mitchell Beazley. ISBN 1840009195
Cars on Vinyl: 500 Superb Record Covers Dedicated To The Automobile, by Jacques Petit. Published in 2010 by Haynes Publishing. ISBN 978-1844257263
CD Art: Innovation in CD Packaging Design, by Charlotte Rivers. Published in 2004 by RotoVision, SA (Mies, Switzerland). ISBN 2-88046-745-4
Classic Album Covers of the 60’s, by Storm Thorgerson. Re-issued edition published in 2009 by Collins & Brown. ISBN-13 978-1843405498
Classic Album Covers of the 70’s, by Aubrey Powell. Published in 2012 by Collins & Brown. ISBN 978-1843406778
Classic Rock Covers, by Michael Ochs. Published in 2001 by Taschen GmbH (Cologne, Germany). ISBN 3-8228-5540-5
Coast To Coast Album Covers: Classic Record Art From New York To L.A. by Graham Marsh and Glyn Callingham. Published in 2011 by Collins & Brown, U.K. ISBN 978-1907554353 Focuses on outstanding art (primarily jazz covers) from 1950’s – 1960’s, with many of the same designers/artists going on to do rock & Pop music covers.
Compact Disc Packaging & Graphics, by Ken Pfeifer. Published in 1992 by Rockport Publishing. ISBN 978-1564960030. Also available – Compact Disc Packaging & Graphics 2, by Glen Christensen. Published in 1994 by Rockport Publishing. ISBN 978-1564960689
Cover Art By: New Music Graphics, by Adrian Shaughnessy. Published in 2008 by Laurence King Publishing (London, UK). ISBN 978 1 85669 527 5
Covered! Classic Record Sleeves And Their Imitators, by Simon Robinson and Jan Bellekens. Published in 2011 by Easy On The Eye Books (UK). ISBN 978-0-9561439-2-1
Cover Story: Album Cover Art, by the Staff of Wax Poetics. Published in 2009 by powerHouse Books. ISBN-13: 978-1576875094, followed by Cover Story Volume 2: Odd, Obscure, and Outrageous Album Art, by the Staff Of Wax Poetics. Published in 2010 by Wax Poetics. ISBN-13: 978-0979811036
Dead Children Playing, by Stanley Donwood and Dr. Tchock (AKA Thom Yorke). Published in 2007 by Verso Books (UK & US). ISBN 13:978 1 84467 170 0
DEFINITION – The Art and Design of Hip-Hop, by Cey Adams with Bill Adler. Published in 2008 by Collins Design/Harper Collings Publishers, NY. ISBN 978-0-06-143885-1
Design For Music (Pictographic Index), by Hans Lijklema. Published in 2011 by Pepin Press, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. ISBN-13: 978-9057681578
Designed for Dancing: How Midcentury Records Taught America to Dance, by Janet Borgerson and Jonathan Schroeder. Published in 2021 by The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, USA. ISBM-13: 978-0262044332
Designed for Hi-Fi Living: The Vinyl LP in Midcentury America, by Janet Borgerson and Jonathan Schroeder. Published in 2018 by The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, USA. ISBN-13: 978-0262536011
Designing For Music, by Spencer Drate with a forward by Roger Dean. Published in 1992 by PBD International, Inc., Glen Cove, NY, USA. ISBN 0-86636-183-9
DIY Album Art: Paper Bags and Office Supplies, by J. Namdev Hardisty. Published in 2009 by Mark Batty Publisher, Brooklyn, NY, USA. ISBN-13: 978-0982075425 A study of the hand-made album covers put forth by independent, post-punk music publishers beginning in the mid-1990s.
Exotiquarium: Album Art from the Space Age, by Jennifer McKnight-Trontz, with a foreword by Lenny Dee. Published in 1999 by St. Martin’s Griffin. ISBN-13: 978-0312201333
Factory Records: The Complete Graphic Album, by Matthew Robinson. Published in the U.K. in 2007 by Thames & Hudson, London, U.K. ISBN 978-0500286364
Fade to Black: Hard Rock Cover Art of the Vinyl Age, by Martin Popoff and Ioannis. Published in the U.S. in 2012 by Sterling Publishing, NY. ISBN 978-1402778179
For the Love of Vinyl: The Album Art of Hipgnosis, by Storm Thorgerson, Aubrey Powell and Paula Scher. Published in 2008 by PictureBox. ISBN 978-0981562216
Funk & Soul Covers, by Joaquim Paulo and edited by Wiedemann. Published in 2015 by Taschen Books. ISBN 978-3836556262. “The collection gathers more than 500 legendary record covers that visualized a golden era of Black music.” 576 pages.
Graphis Music CD 1, edited by B. Martin Pedersen. Published in Zurich, Switzerland in 1995 by Graphis Press Corp. ISBN 978-0823064700
The Greatest Album Covers of All Time, by Barry Miles, Grant Scott and Johnny Morgan. Published in the U.K. in 2005 by Collins & Brown/Chrysalis Books. ISBN 1843403013 This book was updated in 2016 to include a number of newer album covers – same title, new ISBN – 978-1910231982
In Search of the Lost Record, by MATSUI Takumi. Published in 2001 by Graphic-sha Publishing Co., Ltd. (Tokyo, Japan) ISBN 4-7661-1268-7
In the Groove: Vintage Record Graphics 1940-1960, by Eric Kohler with an intro by Tony Bennett. First edition published in 1999 by Chronicle Books. ISBN-13: 978-0811821216
Metal & Hardcore Graphics, by Cristian Campos. Published in 2011 by Advanced Marketing s De Rl De Cv (in Spanish, English & other languages). ISBN 978-8499367736
Naked Vinyl: Classic Album Cover Art Unveiled, by Tim O’Brien & M. Savage. Published in 2002 by Chrysalis. ISBN-13: 978-1844110056
100 Best Album Covers, by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell. Published in 1999 by DK Publishing. ISBN 0-7894-4951-X
1000 Record Covers, by Michael Ochs. Published in 2001 by Taschen GmbH (Cologne, Germany). ISBN 3-8228-1623-X
Phonographics: Contemporary Album Cover Art & Design, by Brad Benedict and Linda Barton. Published in 1977 by Collier Books. ISBN-13: 978-0020001003
Punk 45: The Singles Cover Art of Punk 1976 – 1980, by Jon Savage and Stuart Baker. Published in 2013 by Soul Jazz Records Publishing (U.K.). ISBN-13: 978-0957260009
Put the Needle on the Record: The 1980s at 45 Revolutions Per Minute, by Matthew Chojnacki. Published in the U.S. in 2011 by Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 978-0764338311
Radical Album Cover Art Sampler 3, by Intro (Adrian Shaughnessy and Julian House). Published in 2003 in the U.K. by Laurence King Publishing, Ltd. and in North America by Harper Design International. ISBN 1-85669-352-X
Reasons to be Cheerful – The Life and Work of Barney Bubbles, by Paul Gorman. Published in 2008 by Adelita, Ltd. (UK). ISBN 978-0955201738
Rock Art, by Spencer Drate. Published in 1993 by PBC International, NY. ISBN 0-86636-183-9
Rock Covers, by Robbie Busch and Jonathan Kirby, edited by Julius Wiedemann. “Sew Edition” published in 2014 by Taschen Books. ISBN 978-3836545259 (Note – “40th anniversary edition” released in 2020)
Rock Graphic Originals: Revolutions in Sonic Art from Plate to Print ’55 – ’88, by Peter Golding and Barry Miles. Published in 2018 by Thames & Hudson, UK & USA. ISBN 978-0500293539. While not specifically about album cover art, many of the people featured in the book, in addition to album covers, have created posters, stage designs, merch, etc. for their music industry clients.
Sampler 2: Art, Pop & Contemporary Music Graphics, by Intro (Adrian Shaughnessy and Julian House). Published in 2000 (as a follow-up to their 1999 book titled Sampler: Contemporary Music Graphics) by Universal/Rizzoli International, New York, NY, USA. ISBN 0-7893-0522-4
Sonic – Visuals For Music, by Robert Klanten, Hendrik Hellige and Tom Hulan. Published in 2004 by Die Gestalten Verlag, Berlin and London. ISBN – 3-89955-040-4
Stir It Up: Reggae Album Cover Art, by Chris Morrow. Published in 1999 by Chronicle Books. ISBN 978-0811826167
This Ain’t No Disco, by Jennifer McKnight-Trontz. Published in 2005 by Chronicle Books. ISBN 0-8118-4542-7
The Ultimate Album Cover Album, by Roger Dean, David Howells and Storm Thorgerson. Published in 1987 by Prentice Hall Press. ISBN 0-13-935750-5 (Note – there are 3 books in this Album Cover Album series – all contain a wealth of info on various collections of album cover designs).
The Worst Album Covers Ever, by Nick DiFonzo. Published in 2004 by Barnes & Noble Books. ISBN 978-0760765678
Total Records: Photography and the Art of the Album Cover, by Antoine de Beaupré, Serge Vincendet and Sam Stourdzé, with text by Jacques Denis. Published in 2016 by Aperture. ISBN 978-1597113847
Vinyl.Album.Cover.Art: The Complete Hipgnosis Catalogue by Aubrey Powell, with a foreword by Peter Gabriel. Published in 2017 by Thames & Hudson, New York, NY. ISBN 9780500519325
Vinyl Records & Covers By Artists by Guy Schraenen. Published in 2005 by Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona. ISBN 978-8489771161 A detailed catalogue of the collection held by the Archive for Small Press and Communication in the Neues Museum Weserburg in Bremen, Germany
Vinyl: The Art of Making Records, by Mike Evans. Published in 2015 by Sterling Press. ISBN 978-145917816
Vinylize!, by Bert Dijkstra and Dick van Dijk. Published in 2017 by Concerto Books, Amsterdam, NL. ISBN 9789082308648 “Classic Album Art Revisited by Contemporary Artists”.
Links to Album Cover-related web sites (various subjects) –
Album Cover Artists – General Information Sites & Blogs:
The Album Cover Art Gallery – www.tralfaz-archives.com/coverart/coverart.html A site curated by photographer M. Schott and based on his enormous personal album collection. The intent is to share the wealth of diverse art gracing the covers of vinyl records, CDs, etc.
Cover Our Tracks – https://www.coverourtracks.com/ – Loring Kemp & Co.’s album cover site includes interviews, “making of” stories and more. Updated several times per year and well worth a visit.
Design Freaks – https://www.designfreakspodcast.com/ – Designer/educator Clarita Hinojosa’s podcast “about music industry art and design – record covers, graphic design, music history and design history” that includes interviews with practitioners of the arts and other music industry luminaries.
Long Live Vinyl – https://longlivevinyl.net/category/reviews/sleeveart/ – Website for lovers of all things vinyl (recorded music on vinyl, that is) has a regular series on “the making of” well-known covers.
LP Cover Lover – www.lpcoverlover.com/ Record collectors Matthew and Tony have put together a site dedicated to “the weird and wonderful world of record covers from the golden age of LPs…”
Muse By Clio – https://musebycl.io/art-album – This site’s “Art of the Album” series profiles the favorite record covers of people in the graphic arts/design world, told in their own words.
Outsiderrock.com – https://outsiderrock.wordpress.com/ Canadian hard rock fan Kevin Julie has covered the metal music world for a number of years now and, from time to time, gives readers up close and personal looks into some of the visual artists who’ve made some of the genre’s best known LP covers.
Rate Your Music – http://rateyourmusic.com/list/monocle/album_cover_artists__the_master_list
Curated by “Monocle” – this is an extensive guide to RYMer lists showcasing illustrators, painters, and designers of album art. Sorted alphabetically by the cover artist’s last name.
Stefan Sagmeister’s Instagram Page – https://www.instagram.com/stefansagmeister/ Sagmeister is a well-regarded artist who’s done many notable album covers, but he also likes to share examples of his favorite new works via this constantly-update Instagram page. Always something interesting to see there.
Album Cover Design, Illustration and Photography – General Info/Educational Sites, Articles, Research Papers & Other Publications:
Airgigs.com – Album Cover Art category – https://www.airgigs.com/categories/album-cover-artists-designers-for-hire
The boom in the “gig economy” has lead to a spate of new sites that give freelance designers/artists a place to promote their talents, so if you’d like to offer your services to musical acts/labels who might benefit from your abilities, this looks like a good place to start.
Andy Earhole – https://warholcoverart.com/ – Guy Minnebach’s posts on the Andy Earhole site focus on album covers by Andy Warhol and the people he worked with and influenced. Well-written and scholarly.
Art of the LP: Making The Album Cover (Literally) – https://www.kcet.org/shows/artbound/art-of-the-lp-making-the-album-cover-literally
This October, 2012 article for KCET by Oliver Wang takes you on a guided tour of the Dorado Music Packaging company’s facilities in North Hollywood, CA and includes videos detailing just how record packages are designed and manufactured.
Art Record Covers (Vinyl Record Covers by Renowned Visual Artists) – https://artrecordcovers.wordpress.com/
A site focused on the visual aspects of the art of the record cover, edited by a highly-respected collector of album cover art named Frank Edwards, a fellow who has been responsible for curating several fine album art exhibitions in the U.S. and internationally.
The Balance Careers (formerly About.com) › Music Careers › Industry Basics – https://www.thebalancecareers.com/album-cover-art-graphic-designer-career-profile-2460636
If you want to find work as a freelance album cover designer, this site will get you started with some good, basic information on the topic.
Deviant Art – https://www.deviantart.com/search?q=album%20cover Deviant Art is a site dedicated to design of all types – in addition to this huge collection of info on album art and design (images, groups, etc.) the site also includes sections on Logos & Logotypes (and other forms of packaging) and many specialty-interest groups.
Easy On The Eye/ST33 – http://st33.wordpress.com/ – Curated by designer Simon Robinson, this site shows carefully-selected portfolios of record cover designs, annotated with info on designers, galleries and other resources.
First Draft/Album Cover Art Wednesdays – http://first-draft.com/category/album-cover-art/ – Curated by Adrastos, this blog offers up interesting discussions about “pre-CD and download-era” album covers.
Hardformat – http://www.hardformat.org – A U.K.-based site launched in 2007 and curated by Colin B, Hardformat “celebrates brilliant music-related design” and provides “a personal perspective published with the hope that it will provide inspiration and remind you of how wonderful such design really is.” Very comprehensive, covering a wide range of topics.
Icon Collective/Icon Music Blog – “How To Design Effective Album Cover Art” article by RORY PQ. https://iconcollective.edu/album-cover-art-tips/ Originally published 2/11/2019 and updated 5/8/2020. This Los Angeles-based educational institution (specializing in music industry-related classes) has provided visitors with a “best practices” DIY guide, along with links to related resources.
Illustration History – https://www.illustrationhistory.org/resources/category/album-cd – An educational resource and archive maintained by the Norman Rockwell Museum (Stockbridge, MA – https://www.nrm.org/) featuring links to a variety of resources – books, interviews, articles, blogs, professional organizations and several others – that focus on people working in the field of illustration.
Jive Time Records Album Cover Galleries – http://jivetimerecords.com/blog/category/album-cover-galleries/ – This site is managed by the folks at Jive Time Records in Seattle, WA, a well-established used vinyl store located there. They’ve curated a number of themed album art galleries, including ones dedicated to psychedelic design, vintage designs, exercise records, artistically-defaced record jackets and covers featuring fruit and vegetables!
U.S. Library of Congress/National Recording Sound Preservation Board – http://www.loc.gov/programs/national-recording-preservation-board/resources/ Historical information about recorded music, with additional info on resources and organizations dedicated to the preservation of all forms/styles of recorded music. The Album Cover Hall of Fame is proud to be listed on this site in the “Other Useful Resources” section – http://www.loc.gov/programs/national-recording-preservation-board/resources/other-useful-resources/
RecordArt – https://recordart.wordpress.com/ – by “Rockdoc” AKA Richard Forrest, “an ex vinyl collector with a particular interest in record cover art” who publishes a series of articles about album art collecting on this WordPress site. Always entertaining and insightful.
Shindig! Magazine – http://www.shindig-magazine.com/ – U.K.-based music publication that runs a regular column on album cover artwork called “Vinyl Art”. The articles are not available online but, having seen several of them, they’re well-written and informative and worth seeking out.
Sleevenote – http://sleevenote.info/ – U.K.-based mobile device application producer (for Apple devices only as of 4/16) that combines a music player with a database of interactive record covers (front & back) and track lists.
Sound and Vision: Marketing Recorded Music in the Age of Radio – https://dc.uwm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=2302&context=etd – a 2016 research paper written by Daniel Martin Murphy as part of his Master of Arts in Media Studies work at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
UDiscoverMusic’s Cover Story: A History of Album Artwork – https://www.udiscovermusic.com/in-depth-features/history-album-artwork/
This site is operated by the folks at Universal Music Group (“the largest record label in the world and home to the greatest artists in history”) and regularly includes articles about album art and the people that make it. This particular article provides a nice refresher course about modern album art/design.
Album Cover Search Engines:
AlbumArt.org – www.albumart.org/ – Find your CD or DVD cover fast with this search engine. Searches through millions of covers instantly. Also featuring videos, music and unique lyrics.
AlbumArtExchange – www.albumartexchange.com/ – High Quality Album & CD Artwork. Dedicated to collecting and sharing meticulously scanned and edited album cover art, with editorial and polls updated regularly.
Cover Art Archive – https://archive.org/details/coverartarchive&tab=collection – “a joint project between the Internet Archive and MusicBrainz, whose goal is to make cover art images available to everyone on the Internet in an organised and convenient way”.
Please be sure to send us any info you might have on books or sites that you think should be included in this list. THANKS!
This list will be updated on the ACHOF site regularly, so please visit often.
Updated 9-13-13, 1-22-14, 8-11-14, 9-11-14, 12-30-14, 4-13-15, 6-22-15, 10-25-15, 3-14-16, 9-22-16, 12-7-17, 2-28-18, 2-28-18, 9-13-19, 10-11-19 and 1-19-21
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Here are two relatively new projects telling the stories of the album cover artwork of the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.
“The Rolling Stones album art.” Charles Yoe. It’s Only Rock’n Roll, The Rolling Stones Fan Club. https://iorr.org/albums/. Album covers stories posted to date:
Their Satanic Majesties Request.
Let It Bleed.
Exile on Main Street.
Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2)
“Album artwork.” Patrick Roefflaer. Untold Dylan, The meaning behind the music and words of Bob Dylan. https://bob-dylan.org.uk/album-artwork. Album cover stories posted to date:
Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits.
Slow Train Coming.
The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.
Times they are a changin’.
The Basement Tapes.
Ken – hello and thanks for sharing this info. I’ll be sure to introduce my readers to these sources in my next newsletter! Mike G
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