Album artwork – the renaissance of vinyl


James Murray

Senior Research Executive, London

Categories Blog

As design enthusiasts, we’ve always got our eyes peeled for inspiration, searching in even the most unlikely places. Recently we went old school, diving into the world of vinyl.

Over the last decade vinyl has been making a steady comeback, and with its revival has come the return of record sleeves and liner notes- creative spaces for illustrators to work their magic on.

Records are retro, and retro is trending. The revived style is all the rage now. Whether in clothing or furniture, its heterogeneity allows people to express themselves in a multitude of unique ways. Record collecting is part of that, a niche little hobby for the cool cats out there.

We thought we’d take a look back at how the visual brand language of records has changed and developed from decade to decade.


1969 – The Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground and Nico

Having Andy Warhol as band manager is bound to come with some perks, and I suppose one of those is getting some pretty outstanding artwork for your albums. Warhol worked his magic on this one, delivering an ironic and satirical pop-art style to this album cover. If you look closely you’ll find a caption asking you to ‘PEEL SLOWLY AND SEE’. Underneath the sticker, lies a rather provocative flesh-coloured banana. The sixties really were swinging.


1978 – Funkadelic

One Nation Under a Groove

Artist Pedro Bell cleverly crafted a cartoony design style that brought to life Funkadelic’s anti-establishment philosophy and subversive messages present in their music which were a response to the zeitgeist. Pedro Bell’s involvement with Funkadelic aided in their success and ultimately resulted in him formulating a visual language for Funk culture.


1980 – Change

The Glow of Love

Change gets Baushaus-y on us with an album cover that makes you question your depth perception (how many dimensions do we have here!?). I just love how artist Greg Porto pays homage to the album title by incorporating glowing orbs onto the cover.


1994 – Joni Mitchell

Turbulent Indigo

Turbulent Indigo’s album cover was inspired by Van Gogh’s ‘Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear’. The modified self-portrait was painted by Mitchell herself, and uses emphasised brushstrokes typical of impressionism which add dynamism and give life to the painting


2009 – Green Day

21st Century Breakdown

It’s now the 21st Century and Green Day have stayed true to punk, adopting street art for their rock opera album. The use of stencilled graffiti certainly plays into the title and punk’s renegade ideology, while the deep red torchlight looks to ignite a fiery passion in the couple, bringing the cover to life.


2009 – Erykah Badu

New Amerykah Part One.

New Amerykah’s cover is rich in symbolism, with a portrayal of Badu whose hair is decorated in a bric-à-brac manner. The cover was designed by Badu herself and graphic artist Emek. The artwork sought to reflect Badu’s perspective on various issues including music, politics, religion and economics and did so by incorporating emblems that depict American culture and modern society. The result of Emek’s work is a cover that invites listeners to look a little closer, dig beneath the surface, and discover more.

Can you see the artist's name hidden in her hair?

These are just a few of our favourites, what are yours?