Music and art have always had this complicated relationship, like a celebrity couple. Sometimes they’re beautiful together and others are a train-wreck, (one of the ones where you can’t look away). Album cover art is a great example of this relationship, and in this blog we’ll take a look at some beautiful examples of album art, whether they’re solely typographic in nature, or an extravagant illustration.
Let’s start off typographic. Hailing from Nashville, the pop-punk trio fronted by the pixie-spitfire Hayley Williams, paramore caused a stir when they released their sophomore album Riot. Designed by Mark Orbriski (who’s also designed album covers for bands such as Cobra Starship, Stone Temple Pilots and Skillet) and fashioned after William’s own handwriting, the brash type really echoes the whole attitude of the album. The controversy came when some claimed that Orbirski had ripped off the No Doubt album Rock Steady, which feature a similar treatment of type. Rock Steady came out six years earlier, and at the time of Riot’s release, Justin Timberlake’s LoveStoned and Demi Lovato’s Don’t Forget also feature a similar typographic style on their albums.
Departing for the solely typographic album cover, we now find ourselves in a more illustrated world, specifically the sophomore album of another pop-punk band, Set Your Goals. The illustration, drawn by British artist Drew Millward, features a skull, flanked by bandaged-wrapped hands. Atop the skull sits a caricature of a grim reaper. The type in this illustration seamlessly fits into the piece, a strength of Millward (check out his gallery, he’s a phenomenal artist). The style is a blend of realistic and cartoon, which makes for a visually pleasing piece.
Green Day’s American Idiot can be considered one of the best rock operas of our generation, and it’s interesting because it’s album cover either intentionally or inadvertently pays homage to one of design’s most beloved members, Saul Bass. The cover (as seen above) features a simple hand holding a stylized grenade in a heart shape. The whole image is composed of basic shapes. The graphic design is simple, striking and can be translated through various media, making it not only a successful cover, but also insignia for the band.
Departing from illustration, and approaching the abstract, one album cover that was designed beautifully is Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile. Designed by David Carson (who you either love or hate), the album is abstract in signature Carson style. Using two photographs, Carson evokes the feeling of confusion and secrecy as he hides half of the band’s logo. This is one of those cases where the album cover really reflects the whole emotion of the album.
To finish out this entry, let’s look at a photographic album cover. Adele’s second album, 21, is a beautiful blend of simple typography and a beautiful photograph of the singer herself. The mood of the photography perfectly embodies the emotion of the album, and is a perfect fit to be on the cover.