Gary Freiberg describes album art as, ‘the most personable art form there is… Cover art is part of that emotional connection we have with music.’ I agree because we rely on music to get through the tough times in our lives and the album art shows the visualisation of the music you are listening. Freiberg also quoted that, “Album cover art is a unique depiction of the evolution of our society.”
Album art was first introduced in 1938, and Alex Steinweiss was the creator of the art form. His artwork was abstract and each cover that he has created, has their own uniqueness to them. In his twenties, Steinweiss was hired by the American Gramophone Company before it was later called, Columbia Records.
From 1930 to 34, Steinweiss attended Abraham Lincoln High School. He entered the graphic design program during the second term. It was taught by Leon Friend. In 1940, Alex illustrated his first album cover for Rodgers & Hart. The artwork shows a theatre with the band’s name in lights.
His covers incorporate flat colours, surrealism and symbolism. He drags people attention through his use cartoon-style portraits of the artist and photographs of cultural iconic buildings or landmarks.
As the years go by, artists want the cover of their albums to have a photo of themselves that showcases their personality through their music. But the primary and big influence on album cover art in society today was the introduction of computer imaging.
Computer imaging was first introduced in 1973 and has only been used since the late 20th century and onwards. The use of digital imagery gives the artist or illustrator a chance to experiment with different tools from different varieties of design software such as photoshop and illustrator. The only issue in using computer imagery is that it loses the rawness that the music is trying to portray.
Jamie Reid took a different approach in his artwork by using monochrome photography of iconic people, brash colours, DIY punk and ransom note lettering. He is well known for doing album art for the Sex Pistols during the 1970’s. Reid co-founded Suburban Press with former actress Margi Clarke.
He quoted about the press as a mixture of ‘local politics, cut-and-paste graphics, absurd humour, agit-prop/ Situationist aphorisms and a lot of subtly subversive mischief-making.’
In 2001, Pistols’ album God Saved the Queen that was released in 1977 was voted number one for the greatest album cover ever made.
From 1990’s to today album art has transferred onto CD’s, and the small scale of pure imagery that the artist or illustrator has created doesn’t look appealing than it does on vinyl. Also since music can now be streamed or downloaded onto portable devices such as, phones, mp3’s, tablets, pcs and laptops people in society has lost sight of the appreciation of the album art.
Public Service Broadcasting artist, Graham Pilling stated, "I think it's similar to film – the majority of people aren't really interested in the design and production side of things but there are plenty of people who love that angle, so you could never say it's not appreciated. Appreciation and popularity are not mutually exclusive.”
Illustrator Kieran Gabriel backed up Pilling statement saying, "In the days of quick turn around and surprise albums, it's easy for the album artwork to be forgotten. I do feel the days of the iconic album cover have gone."
Also for the people who grew up listening to vinyl finally get to relive their childhood of their passion for music especially if it is coming from upcoming bands and music artists.