Tag Archives: Design history

Cover story. New trade version of monograph celebrating the inventor of LP design

The first illustrated album cover – for ‘albums’ of 78rpm records – was designed in 1940 by Alex Steinweiss, art director at Columbia Records.

The 94-year-old Steinweiss rarely receives the recognition given to Paul Rand or Lester Beall, widely considered to be among the form-givers of American Modernism, but he was just as much a pioneer of corporate branding insofar as he gave a major recording company a distinctive identity.

You can now read the full text of Steven Heller’s Reputations interview with Steinweiss in Eye 76, the music design special issue.

In 2009, Taschen published the literally massive Alex Steinweiss: The Inventor of the Modern Album Cover (top) an exhaustive survey of his music work and other graphic design. At 422 pages, measuring 34cm by 28.3cm, it is possibly the largest design monograph ever published. Taschen has now made the previously limited-editionbook available in a more affordable trade version.

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It was Steinweiss who, in the early 1950s, after designing hundreds of packages, posters and catalogues for Columbia, created the paperboard LP cover to protect and market the latest revolution in music delivery. In the process, he defined the visual identity of recorded music for decades to come.

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Alex Steinweiss, The Inventor of the Modern Album Cover
Hardcover, 420pp. £44.99 (Taschen).

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It’s available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions, back issues (including Eye 76 and single copies of the latest issue. For a visual sample, see Eye before you buy on Issuu. Eye 79 is out any moment.

Posters on sticks. A vast river of banner-bearing humanity with something to say

Here is a postscript to Eye’s poster debate, writes Sally Jeffery (see ‘Help! Poster initiatives mean well …

This time: posters on sticks.

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The vast river of humanity that flowed through central London on 26 March was resplendent with a waving forest of placards and banners, swept along by up to half a million people. They had come from all over Britain to register anger or fear or despair at the coalition government’s scheduled spending cuts – and they did it with posters.

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At the heart of the march were the massed cohorts of the public service trade unions, but it felt as if nearly everyone else was there, too, all mixed up together. The actions of anti-capitalists a few streets away became the day’s other story. However, the occasional masked trooper who pushed through the crowds of marchers seemed to be carrying a faint – and unexpected – whiff of elitism instead of a banner.

Some of the marchers’ placards and banners were pro jobs (usefully put up online beforehand as free-to-use pdfs), some home-made, some were old and iconic union banners. No designer’s name in sight though – just a sort of democracy of poster production, proclaiming a common cause. Perhaps posters don’t change events. But then again, it’s possible Britain would have a different government now, if people hadn’t marched with banners in 2003, and been ignored.

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Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal. Available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions, back issues and single copies of the latest issue. Eye 79, a type special, will be out very soon.