Hipgnosis: Behind Famous Album Covers

While listening to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here and aimlessly glancing through the album’s credits, one particular name caught my eye: Hipgnosis, who is acknowledged for the album’s photography and design. I thought it was a weird name to begin with, so I proceeded by doing a search on him. To my surprise, Hipgnosis turned out to be not a “him”, but a “them” – and more specifically, a group of two (and later three) English art students who have been responsible for a lot of album covers that I thought, over the years, to be individually brilliant, without thinking there might be any connection between each other.

Their “breakthrough”, as they say, was Pink Floyd’s A Saucerful Of Secrets in 1968, a cover they created as nothing more than a favour to the band. After that, the EMI (Music Recording and Publishing) Company hired them for further contributions. They then formed a career around creating album covers for big names such as The Pretty Things, T. Rex, Electric Light Orchestra, Led Zeppelin, Wishbone Ash, Genesis, Paul McCartney & Wings, AC/DC, Black Sabbath or Yes.

I won’t proceed into posting each and every artwork they’ve ever designed, just the ones I think are the best and most well-known. If you feel the need to do further research upon them, here’s their official website, which also contains detailed photos (not just of front covers) of their works. For more info, just click on the picture.09_22.T-Rex-Electric_Warrior      Pink Floyd_Dark Side Argus      R-2081791-1270755636genesis-atott (1)      Pink Floyd - Ummagumma - Studio Album - FrontNow, I’m not the right person to try to go into photo analysis (don’t shoot me, I’m only the music reviewer!), but I’ll just point out that most of these present somehow symbolic illustrations that give a nod as to what the album may be about. And, to be honest, I’ve always thought that to be a clever and fine way of making use of the artwork. A good example would be Pink Floyd’s ‘Animals’ with that factory hinting at the social themes dealt with in the record itself (and the rather funny flying pig suggesting the ‘Pigs On The Wing’ songs, perhaps).


Of course, it would be naive of me not to admit that some of their covers are not really good. No body of work is absolutely immaculate, and Hipgnosis’ is no exception. The two Scorpions artworks they did, in particular, strike me as absolutely horrible (then again, I hate the band, so maybe I’m biased to begin with). See for yourselves:


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Even though the last piece of artwork to carry the Hipgnosis name was kind of dull as well (Led Zeppelin’s Coda), I think we should give them their due for creating some of the most iconic album covers in rock ‘n’ roll.



Categories: Essays

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