The Art of Rock: Legends of the Album Cover

by . May 9th, 2012

When we say rock and roll, we automatically conjure images of rebellious and non-conformist teenagers. Of course, that’s what the media constantly shows us, so it stuck. But thanks, too, to media rock and roll and its children reached the right audience – the rebels, the creative fellas, and the graphic designer.

We’ve seen different compilations of legendary, amazing, and classic designs of both rock posters and album cover art, but there’s no mention of the artist or their background. We all know that graphic designer and rock stars are alike in many things, more than the music they like. The mere fact that there are musicians who, aside from making music, also create art work for their bands, proves that there’s a lot in common between graphic designers and rock musicians.

Here’s a shortlist of notable graphic designers and photographers whose artwork have graced various album art covers:


Peter Saville

Peter Saville first worked with Factory Records as an art director, where he created album covers for bands like Joy Division, New Order, and OMD. Saville’s style is a fusion of modern typography and design, and the anarchic style of punk graphics.

During his stay with Factory records, he designed almost every album cover for New Order. But it was his design on Joy Division’s Closer album that’ll become controversial, because of the later suicide of Ian Curtis, the band’s vocalist. Joy Division’s Closer album cover, depicting Christ’s funeral, compliments the somber tone of the band’s second studio album. The album would go on to become one of Rolling Stones’ 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.


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Rob Sheridan

Working with the band Nine Inch Nails (NIN) for more than 11 years, Rob Sheridan’s art and work has appeared in almost every media – from album covers, web design, publications, and videos. His current works include album design for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Social Network OSTs.

NIN’s influence on Rob Sheridan’s style is evident in the industrial textures and somber overall feel of the albums that he has worked on.


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Bob Cato

An industry mover, Bob Cato has been more than a graphic designer when it comes to the music scene. He has contributed countless album covers that became classics in both design and music circles. As a VP for creative services in Columbia Records, he handled various bands and their album cover art, and even going as far as handling the naming of the record.

His most notable works, that won him two Grammy Awards for Best Album Cover, are Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits and Barbra Streisand’s People. These two albums have become iconic to the generation that popularized Rock and Roll.


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Norman Seeff

Norman Seeff is one creative person you’ll love more once you’ve seen his collection of well-known artists and celebrities. He started out as an immigrant in New York and took photos of people on the streets of Manhattan. Then a well-known graphic designer, Bob Cato, noticed his shots and introduced him to designing album covers for different bands.

His photography’s subjects are meant to capture “human creativity and the inner dynamics of the creative process”. His style in taking photographs is spontaneity and is in black and white. Some of his notable works are for the bands Blondie in their album Eat to Beat, and Santana’s Inner Secrets.

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Mick Rock

Another photographer known for his album covers and portraits of bands and artists is Mick Rock. He began to work with David Bowie, and documented much of Bowie’s performances as Ziggy Stardust. He would later create album covers designs out of his photographs, while taking pictures of other iconic musicians.

Mick Rock is best known for the album covers that he has produced for acts such as Iggy Pop, Queen, Lou Reed, and The Ramones. He’s still active in taking photographs of other musicians today; some of his recent subjects include MGMT, Pharell Williams, Queens of The Stone Age, and Daft Punk.

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There may be a lot of digitization going on today, but the classic sleeve-and-case packaging won’t die (well, at least not soon). Even if Peter Saville himself talks about the album cover being dead, there are people who will still buy albums off record stores because of their love for music and the art.

Watch out for our next post about the Art of Rock: The Reemergence of Rock Posters. Make sure to like us on Twitter or Facebook for updates. If you’re a feedburner junkie, you can also subscribe to our RSS Feed!


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