• The Record Press

A Short History of the Album Cover

Written by Taryn Kaur

As we step into this new era of the digital streaming world, we find ourselves slipping further away from thin paper inserts planted in the cover of a CD and the 12-inch x12-inch cardboard sleeves of a vinyl. The space on our shelves is becoming increasingly free from plastic cases and paper wallets, instead, we pull our devices out from our back pockets, and in the corner of our screens, we are greeted with a thumbnail of album art. Just like that, with a swipe of our thumb we are free to flick between millions of different albums. Iconic artists, such as The Beatles, famous for their ‘White Album’, The Sex Pistols, with their striking yellow and pink ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’ cover, and Pink Floyd’s recognisable ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ prism art, have left their stamp on the music scene through the single square image of their album cover art. These have then played an enormous role in building their brand name and eventually made them emblematic within the music industry. Physically being able to own pieces of cover art after purchasing a new album have always been a novelty, until digital music services such as Spotify and itunes entered the space. These platforms have completely reinvented how album covers are designed, created and represented, but this doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing...

With the technology surrounding photoshop and CGI continually developing and evolving, artists are able to portray themselves and their music in more ways than ever. Utilizing the growing array of graphic effects has given musicians the chance to take a step further when it comes to creating and inventing their image. Ashnikko’s 2020 album, ‘Demidevil’, is a bold, standout example of this as she animates every aspect of her background and self to represent that of a cartoon or videogame character. This fits her genre-bending, hyper-stylized, anime persona

and enhances her overall branding. On the other hand, artists such as Billie Eilish and Drake have taken a more organic and natural stance in their albums ‘Happier Than Ever’ and ‘Scorpion’, employing just a simple headshot. Many artists have maintained, if not amplified and expanded the visual side of their craft through the use of technology, to symbolise their individuality as creatives. As the ‘new’ cover album has now been reduced down to just a 2inch square, artists are using simple, clean graphics that look aesthetically pleasing on a screen as well as prints that can then be placed directly onto merchandise. This not only gains the musician promotion but also makes them and their work more recognisable within society.

Album covers have adapted well, considering they are not physically necessary in terms of the nature of online streaming services, and continue to be a popular focal talking point among fans and followers. With the advancement of technology and increase in trends, this is just the beginning of a whole new age of album visuals. The approach of cover art has not become extinct just yet, still being deemed an iconographic signature within music culture.

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