Design

Vinyl/CD Cover Printing and Artwork

15 great sources for album eye candy, inspiration, and discussion.

I'm one of those suckers who truly believes that there will always be a place in the world for vinyl. A lot of people believe this because they say the sound quality is unmatchable, but for me, it's all about the artwork.

I was looking at a collection of album cover art over here the other day, and it got me thinking. At Hotcards, we do a lot of DVD cover printing and CD cover printing, as well as album artwork designs. But would album cover design be such a major artform if recordings had originally come out as tapes, CDs, or MP3s? I strongly doubt it, and yet, largely because of the amazing work of album cover artists, the worlds of music and art have always been intertwined.

The post I was reading that got me on to this topic was suggesting album artwork as a source of design inspiration. I started doing some more research on the subject, and I was amazed to find how much album covers have influenced the design AND printing industry.

For example, I'll be you didn't know that the gatefold, which is used all the time in not only cd cover printing, but brochure printing, flier printing, and even business card printing, was originally invented for vinyl packaging. In the 1960s, musician and producer Enoch Light developed the gatefold so that MORE art could be included in record packaging. Super cool!

The world has changed a lot since MP3 downloading became effortless, but prior to this, many people made their music purchasing decisions based on album artwork. Of course, that's what those of us involved in DVD cover printing and CD cover printing still hope goes on, but the question today is – is the album cover a dying artform?

For those of you who'd like to do some research or eye candy-goggling of your own, here are some of the best resources on the web for checking out and discussing album cover artwork:

The Tralfaz Archives are probably your best bet for pure vinyl covers. The navigation takes you through thumbnails, which isn't awesome, but when you click on the album, you get some great history and design critique stuff.

Albumart is a nice search engine if you know what you're looking for. The results are at least the size of regular CD cover printing, and sometimes larger. You just have to know what artist you want to search for, as there is no browsing function.

Album Cover Artists isn't a pretty site, but it gets the job done with its excellent knowledge base and focus on individual album cover artists. It also provides a ton of links, some golden, others dead. Unfortunately, “vinyl artist” and “master of the internets” are two concepts that don't quite gel.

Jim Flora is an oldschool designer with a unique style that you'll probably recognize. And he's got a great gallery of his album artwork up.

The same, unfortunately, can't be said for Roger Dean, another fav of mine that I had to link to here despite the quality of his website. FYI: Roger Dean is a primarily sci-fi artist that probably pioneered the love affair between rock album covers and fantasy art.

Hipgnosis and Storm Thorgerson designed some of the most famous and recognizable covers of all time, defining the style of artists like Pink Floyd and Peter Gabriel. Thorgerson is still doing album artwork to this day, and his site offers a nice interface for scrolling through his very recognizable projects.

LP Cover Lover. The name says it all. A blog that is regularly updated with cover art from classic LPs and 45s. Really nice, big images.

Covertalk is a blog with some cool images to ogle, but it's mostly a good place to go learn about CD cover print and design – the technical stuff, y'know.

In case you haven't heard about the ultra-trendy internet sensation, Sleeveface is a blog that posts images of people holding vinyl album covers up in front of their bodies so that, for example, you end up with a pic that looks like your body with the head of that guy from the Beegees. Due to its popularity, Sleeveface proper mostly posts about itself appearing in the media these days, so check out the Sleeveface Flickr account in the interest of pure album artwork browsing.

J-Pop CD Cover Art diligently compiles the cover art of Japanese Pop albums. Much like Japanese Pop itself, these covers will challenge your artistic tastes, and you'll either hate them, or start to see the world a bit differently.

Dana Countryman puts together a pretty nice collection of the most bizarre vintage album cover art you could ever hope to browse. You have to click on the albums one by one to see the full size, but it's usually worth it.

Last but not least, enjoy a moment with Terrible Album Covers. All hilarity, no boring commentary, and at the very least, a nice what-not-to-do tutorial for aspiring designs out there.

These days, we get miniature glances at album covers on our iPods, iPhones, and iTunes, but it's much rarer to enjoy the almost poster-sized artwork of old, unless you're a collector. Did I miss any of your favorite links to inspiring album artwork? If so, post 'em on the comment thread here, and let's all cross our fingers that vinyl stays around a bit longer, that art and music stay in love, and that good design continue to prosper.


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Record Player photography courtesy of Joe Lencioni, Shifting Pixel
Joe Lencioni, Shifting Pixel

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