Design Books: Alex Steinweiss, The Inventor of the Modern Album Cover

5 Feb
2011

Alex Steinweiss invented the album cover as we know it, which created a new graphic art form. In 1940, as Columbia Records’ young new art director, he pitched an idea: Why not replace the standard plain brown wrapper with an eye-catching illustration? The company took a chance with this concept, and within months its record sales increased by over 800 per cent.

Steinweiss’ covers for Columbia Records—combining bold typography with modern, elegant illustrations—took the industry by storm and revolutionized the way records were sold.

“I love music so much and I had such ambition that I was willing to go way beyond what the hell they paid me for. I wanted people to look at the artwork and hear the music.” —Alex Steinweiss

Over three decades, Steinweiss made thousands of original artworks for classical, jazz, and popular record covers for Columbia, Decca, London, and Everest; as well as logos, labels, advertising material, even his own typeface, the Steinweiss Scrawl. He launched the golden age of album cover design and influenced generations of designers to follow. Less well known—but included in the book Alex Steinweiss, The Inventor of the Modern Album Cover —are his posters for the U.S. Navy; packaging and label design for liquor companies; film title sequences; as well as his fine art.

About the Artist: The father of record design is Alex Steinweiss, who in 1940, at the age of 23, single-handedly invented the album cover. He made thousands of classical, jazz, and pop covers for Columbia, London, Decca, and Everest and his modern designs graced the packaging, logos, and covers of dozens of distilleries, film studios, and magazines; earning him an AIGA Medal and the Art Directors Hall of Fame lifetime achievement award. Also a fine artist, Steinweiss and his wife live in Sarasota, FL.

Previously available in a limited edition, the book is finally available in an affordable trade version. The Art Edition is limited to 100 numbered copies, each signed by the artist and accompanied by a signed serigraph, The Firebird Suite.

Photos courtesy of Taschen, where you can also purchase book.

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