Artwork for CD’s, books, magazines, product packages, etc. have their basic functions for use in promotional materials and advertisements, and as simple protection for the materials contained inside.
The first 78rpm records in the early 1900’s were sold with plain brown paper or cardboard sleeves and it wasn’t until the late 1930’s that the idea of album art was conceived by Alex Steinweiss of Columbia Records. Within ten years, the idea had caught on and most record companies were distributing albums with unique cover art.
As a teenager, I remember anticipating the release of a new album, not just for the music, but what the cover would look like – the story it would tell. It was a part of our teen culture and was the topic of many late night house parties.
The artwork featured today is from the cover of Pink Floyd’s 1994 Division Bell album. I was never a big Floyd fan, but I love this piece. The cover was designed by renowned graphic designer Storm Thorgerson and at first glance, looks like a painting. It is, in fact, a photograph taken of two sculptures by John Robertson. The sculptures currently make their home in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
Since the introduction of downloadable, digital music, some artists like Peter Saville say that the importance and popularity of album cover art is dead. Famed cover artist Ioannis believes however, that album imagery is even more important as graphics for touring and merchandising become crucial parts of money-making in the music industry.
While the purpose of creating art for music albums may have shifted, the artistic endeavor persists. Whatever the reason, the benefits to music and art enthusiasts and designers and artists remains – and that’s a great thing.