Vinyl Art, Hipgnosis and Pink Floyd


Hipgnosis was a London design agency consisting primarily of Aubrey Powell and Storm Thorgerson who specialised in cover art design for twenty years from 1963-1983. Peter Christopherson (of Throbbing Gristle fame) joined in 1974 and became a full partner in 1978.

All different and amazingly talented designers, they exerted – and still exert – a massive influence on vinyl art cover design, as did the bands who asked them to design their album covers. Groups like:

 My Top three Hipgnosis vinyl cover art picks – which one is your favourite and why?

Nuggets Hipgnosis1. Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968

Designer – Closest associations I could find were Jac Holzman, founder of Elektra Records and Lenny Kaye, later lead guitarist for the Patti Smith Group.

Why: Colour and shape swirl over the cover in a pop psychedelic very reminiscent of the era. Large lighter and warmer palettes contrast with smaller contrasting floral sections and this play and detail makes the Nuggets cover unforgettable!

Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures2. Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures, 1979
Designer – Peter Saville
Why: Linear disruption, minimal and framed in desolate black. Still, it shows optimistic for me, and nearly my all time favourite vinyl art cover!
Sacrosanct-Hipgnosis3. Sacrosanct – Recesses for the Depraved1991

Designer (of course) – H.R.Geiger

Why: Again, the detail and contrasting colour with light energy flowing from the spacy female figure’s mouth and eyes across (a guillotine?) to a mirrored skull/male image. Geiger isnt afriad of discussing the heavier side of life, death and art, and I have always liked his precision in design and detail. It is almost like the typography is superfluous to this cover design, which may not have been what the group was after but hey, that’s Geiger. he leaves the meaning construction to the viewer.

 Arguably the most well known Hipgnosis vinyl cover art design:

Dark-Side-of-the-moonPink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon, 1973

Designer – Closest associations I could find were Jac Holzman, founder of Elektra Records and Lenny Kaye, later lead guitarist for the Patti Smith Group.

Why: Everyone knows Newton’s prism image and it is a superb analogy for metaphor and intrigue – of Pink Floyd as well as life and music.

Hipgnosis – the name

Aubrey Powell’s website describes Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett scrawling the name on a doorframe in the South Kensington flat the group shared with him:

“He is to thank for linking ‘hip’ (pertaining to a cool subculture) with ‘gnostic’ (esoteric knowledge of spiritual matters ) and the noun ‘hypnosis’ (an artificially induced trance state resembling sleep characterised by heightened susceptibility to suggestion).”

Hipgnosis _ the team

Their design taste in recruitment was as exacting as their actual cover art design process: assistants and artists who worked with them over the years included George Hardie, Neville Brody, Richard Evans, Bush Hollyhead, Geoff Halpin and Humphrey Ocean.

You can watch a short documentary video about the studio here, called Taken by Storm: a film about Storm Thorgerson and Hipgnosis by director Roddy Bagawa, from Piecemeal films/Fallen cinema, 2010.

So which Hipgnosis vinyl cover art is your favourite and why? Don’t limit yourself to the ones I’ve chosen above, there are so many other amazing Hipgnosis covers out there!!! Post comments below.

Hope you enjoy! As per usual, My Vinyl Revolution have tried to include multiple sources of information and correct as known at the date of posting. If you can add more info please post below and we will update once confirmed – muchas gracias!

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