Artists lament decline of album sleeve: Avant-garde designers find tiny compact disc covers offer little scope for self-expression (CORRECTED)


FROM THE minimalism of The Beatles' 'white album' to Jimi Hendrix's parent-outraging collection of the unclothed on Electric Ladyland, the record sleeve has regularly provided as big a talking point as the music inside.

University students would debate the symbolism of the cow on a Pink Floyd cover before turning the sleeve to more utilitarian use as a surface for tobacco, cigarette papers and allied implements.

For all such uses the compact disc - let alone the even smaller mini-disc and digital compact cassette - are next to useless. And most importantly it appears to be giving little scope to the best and most avant-garde artists and graphic designers who used record covers as an artistic outlet for almost three decades.

A new book on album covers looks at how compact discs are trying to emulate the record sleeve, but concludes that most attempts have failed.

Storm Thorgerson, who has produced covers for Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Genesis, is one of the authors of Album Cover Album 6, a book of the best in album design in the late Eighties. He laments: 'You could always read the information on the LP covers. Now you need a bloody magnifying glass if you want to see anything . . . The real sadness in the certain death of vinyl is the death of the record cover. It's got to be the size. The gatefold wallet opening out on your lap, spreading its mighty two-foot wing span; the inner bag with lyrics and information that you can read without technological aids.

'These physical dimensions allow for different and more expansive design, literally and metaphorically. Far more detail is possible: more double meanings, more ambiguity, more textures, in fact just about more of everything. It's not just the nostalgia of good designs, it is essentially the stimulus; the platform for good work in the future is about to disappear.'

Attempts to package compact disc in ways that allow for album cover design have largely failed. The long box was tried but proved bendable and breakable and did not fit on to a CD shelf. The digipack, a cardboard container with leaves, is too small to have much of a visual impact.

However, Roger Dean, who has designed covers for bands including Yes and Uriah Heep, does not feel that the death of vinyl necessarily means the end of interesting artwork. But he feels that while overall quality is better now than 15 years ago, there is little that stands out and makes people gasp.

'I don't mind the smaller size, but the package is very unpleasant. I hate the plastic it goes on. And why do they have to stick with that same shape? They don't have to. The demise of record covers is bad news for the business because it was such a powerful selling tool. You could see it in a shop from across the street.'

Peter Blake, who was responsible for the most famous album cover, the montage of celebrities on Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, says that this is a transitional period in which artists have probably failed to adapt to the smaller size and simplify their designs accordingly. That will change, he suspects, as a new generation grows up unaware of LP covers. 'They will have to be simpler drawings, and quite possibly more abstract. Something like Sergeant Pepper looks too fussy on CD. I sense we will go back to the earlier days of the Blue Note jazz covers which were very simple. But at the moment it is a bad time because people are not adapting.'

Meanwhile record companies are striving to find ways of packaging CDs that bring back flair into the design. Some have the same theme running through cover, disc and booklet. One, the Bulletboys' Freakshow, has a concertina effect, and Paula Abdul's Spellbound is packaged like a powderpuff.

A re-issue of the Small Faces' Ogden's Nut Gone Flake harks back to a more inventive era; but, as the book notes, the tobacco tin-shaped CDs 'are difficult to open and don't fit so well on the shelf with the rest of the CDs'.

Album Cover Album 6; Dragon's World Ltd, 26 Warwick Way, London SW1; pounds 12.95.


With reference to the article 'Artists lament decline of album sleeve' published in the Independent on 3 December, we have been asked to make clear that DIGIPAK is the registered trademark of AGI Incorporated.

(Photograph omitted)

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam