Monday, April 18, 2011
A Retro Look at the Father of Album Cover Design
Alex Steinweiss is the father of album cover design. As art director at Columbia records, the 23-year-old graphic designer would turn out artworks that changed the music industry ––almost over night.
Steinweiss created the ‘album package’ which was promoted as his idea to create a visual style that celebrates the recording. It was his notion- Why not replace the standard plain brown wrapper with an eye-catching illustration? This concept created a whole new field of illustration and design that was paramount to the success of the record industry (within months Colombia’s record sales increased by over 800%). The Steinweiss style was quickly copied by competitors.
It was in 1948 that Columbia presented the first LP format to the public. The single long playing disc had its obvious advantages––not the least of which was that it did not need the heavy box packaging of the 78 rpm records, and could now be sold in a much simpler sleeve. New packaging had to be designed, and Columbia asked Alex Steinweiss to design covers specifically for these long playing records.
Steinweiss took on the challenge with great enthusiasm, “I love music so much and I had such ambition that I was willing to go way beyond what the hell they paid me for. I wanted people to look at the artwork and hear the music.”
In his four decade career he created album covers for musical jazz greats such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and classical heavy hitters such as Igor Stravinsky. His covers are certainly retro masterpieces.
Keep your eyes open and you just might be able to find one of these retro beauties––suitable for framing!