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Records, History, and the Art that Made Them

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

Platforms like Spotify and Apply Music give us an ease and accessibility to both accessing and purchasing music that certainly makes it appealing. This does lack in one of the quintessential elements we fell in love with, cover and interior album art. You might be thinking, “there still are album and cover images,” but I am thinking about vinyl art!

Buying a record means you are purchasing one part music and one part art. The covers pull us in and the music entrances us. Listening to music on vinyl means engaging with the album, admiring its art, while the music fills the air.

When records were initially put into production, they were practical and functional, wrapped in plain paper covers or cardboard sleeves offering protection, but little visual interest. Columbia Records first art director, Alexander Steinweiss, is the artist who we can directly credit for revolutionizing album cover art. “His use of ‘visual forms and shapes to express music using fresh approaches’ was also extremely influential, as he sought new ways to present metaphorical representations of music groups through his cover art (Megg’s History of Graphic Design, 321)” (Mari, 2018).

With each new musical era, album covers changed and adapted to new styles, cultural norms, and technology. We saw bright and colorful graphic design covers meld into theatrical, dynamic images of artists and band members. Photographs transformed into psychedelic artworks which paved the way for band logos and mascots. (Mari, 2018).

Vintage record shops are popping up all over and listening to music in one of its most truthful forms, is being brought back to life. I got to visit an great record shop in Brick Lane in London in a cool underground vintage mall and at an antique mall in West Texas, both filled with records.

Brick Lane Vintage Record Shop, London

The Whoopie Bowl, Texas Antique Mall, El Paso

Beyond the increased appreciation for the quality of music produced by vinyl, the art is being recognized for the designs that grace the covers. Vinyl art is being reproduced onto t-shirts, socks, and into books such as, "1000 Record Covers."

Take time over the holidays and dance, be happy, bright, and spread love as we leave 2020 behind and step into a new year!

Here are some of our favorite album covers to round out this post, enjoy!

Jody favorite(s): Arrival by ABBA and Rumors by Fleetwood Mac

George favorite: Bootleg by Aerosmith

Maddey favorite: Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys

Boo and George "Wicker" favorite(s): Johnny Mathis, the Platters, and Tommy Edwards

Do you remember you favorite record albums? What did you like most about them?


Mari. (18 September 2018). The Evolution of Album Covers. Foundations of Graphic Design, Vol. 2. New York University.

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