Storm Thorgerson: Graphic designer whose art was central to the work of Pink Floyd

He was a master of the kind of demanding and elaborate set-up that anticipated Photoshop

To millions of music fans the graphic designer Storm Thorgerson was as intrinsic to the Pink Floyd mystique as the members of this most progressive of British groups. Hipgnosis, the partnership he formed with his fellow designer and flatmate Aubrey Powell in 1968, created the eye-catching, surreal cover art that adorned Floyd albums from the psychedelic collage of A Saucerful Of Secrets to Animals, the 1977 release featuring an inflatable pig floating over Battersea power station, based on an idea by Floyd bassist Roger Waters, via the prism of The Dark Side Of The Moon.

"I was passing a bookshop and saw an image of a prism ... and thought maybe that would work," he said last month. "It was about light, which was featured in their show; the triangle is a symbol of ambition which was in the lyrics, and the prism is also a common property – except I made one big change. I made the background black and it makes all the difference."

A master of the elaborate, technically demanding, photographic set-up that appeared to anticipate Photoshop, Thorgerson gloried in the possibilities of the gatefold sleeve. "I like photography because it is a reality medium, unlike drawing, which is unreal. I like to mess with reality, to bend reality. Some of my works beg the question of is it real or not? Why is there a cow on the cover? It doesn't have anything to do with the album, or does it?"

His creations became ever more elaborate as he moved to the intricate packaging of 1975's Wish You Were Here and its image of two businessmen, one on fire, shaking hands, achieved with the help of two stuntmen on a Los Angeles film lot. After Hipgnosis was dissolved in 1983 he launched Storm Studios and continued his association with the Floyd, creating ever grander designs such as the 700 hospital beds on a beach for A Momentary Lapse Of Reason in 1987 and the double-decker sized metal head sculptures facing each other in a field for The Division Bell in 1994.

With Hipgnosis he also designed memorable covers for Bad Company, ELO, Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Roy Harper, The Nice, the Pretty Things, Rainbow, Al Stewart, 10CC, T Rex, UFO and Wings. His fondness for bad puns could get him into trouble. His submission of a tennis racket was considered disrespectful by Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, who didn't think his group made a racket, and sacked him, resulting in Powell taking over to create the collage of naked children crawling over the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland for Houses Of The Holy in 1973. The Hipgnosis team, also including Peter Christopherson and George Hardie, masterminded the packages for the Zeppelin albums Presence, The Song Remains The Same, In Through The Out Door and Coda.

His ideas might have been far-fetched, and their execution time-consuming, but his modus operandi hardly changed. "I listen to the music, read the lyrics, speak to the musicians as much as possible. I see myself as a kind of translator ... I like to explore ambiguity and contradiction, to be upsetting but gently so. I use real elements in unreal ways."

Thorgerson was a keen cricketer, often playing other musicians and record industry figures. His love of cricket inspired the fast bowler rubbing the ball on his trousers shown on There's The Rub, the 1974 album by Wishbone Ash. Over the last two decades he remained in demand and developed distinctive imagery for many of the bands keen to take the Floyd's ambition into the new millennium, including Catherine Wheel, Biffy Clyro, The Mars Volta and Muse.

Born in Potters Bar in 1944, he attended Summerhill, the progressive boarding school, and took on many of its free-thinking principles. Following his parents' divorce, he moved with his mother to the Cambridge area and went to the same school as Syd Barrett, the Floyd's original frontman, and Roger Waters, the bassist, and also befriended future Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, a pupil at a different Cambridge school and Powell, at nearby Ely. He studied English and Philosophy at Leicester University before studying Film and Television at the Royal College of Art in London and gaining an MA in 1969.

By then, he had founded Hipgnosis, whose name conveyed "a nice sense of contradiction, of an impossible co-existence, from Hip = new, cool and groovy, and Gnostic, relating to ancient learning," he wrote in his 1978 book Walk Away René: The Work of Hipgnosis. He set about redefining the parameters of what could be done around the LP following the pop art concepts developed for the Beatles by Peter Blake on Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Richard Hamilton for the White Album. In Classic Album Covers of the 60s he was critical of the record companies' cursory attitude to design, especially when they attempted to cash in on psychedelia. "What amazes me in retrospect is how some of the groups ever put up with it," he wrote.

You could never accuse Thorgerson of kowtowing to marketing teams. He admitted he had "a rampant ego" and was "inclined to be despotic". He and his collaborators staged unlikely juxtapositions on a grand scale and broke new ground time and again. In the early 1980s he moved into advertising and pop videos and briefly thrived in the big-budget MTV era. His signature sweeping style infused the grandiose videos he directed for the Floyd tracks "Learning To Fly" and "High Hopes".

He suffered a stroke in 2003, and was later diagnosed with cancer. Floyd drummer Nick Mason recalled "a scourge of management, record companies and album sleeve printers; champion of bands, music, great ideas and high, sometimes infuriatingly high, standards. Defender of art over commerce, and tireless worker right up to the end. Two days before he passed away ... he was still demanding approval for art work and haranguing his loyal assistants ... Breathtakingly late for appointments and meetings, but once there invaluable for his ideas, humour, and friendship."

Storm Elvin Thorgerson, graphic designer: born Potters Bar 28 February 1944; twice married (one son from first marriage); died London 18 April 2013.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform