May 10, 2017

A Simple Simple Short Shot

A Quick Look at Record Album design -- Alex Steinweiss

Incredibly, album art took over 40 years to show up

"It was ridiculous that beautiful music was in an empty piece of cardboard.” - Alex Steinweiss

Alex Steinweiss, Designer

Now famed designer, Alex Steinweiss started out in Brooklyn where he earned a scholarship to the Parsons School of Design. After graduating he made posters with/for Austrian designer Joseph Binder, before taking a job at Columbia as their advertising manager. In 1939 he realized that the plain brown, tan or green paper ‘lacked sales appeal’ and added a simple marquee design to a collection of songs by Rodgers and Hart. The album sales jumped 900% immediately and album art was cemented in the world of recorded music.

The First Ever Album Cover

It seems incredible that something so intrinsic to the way we enjoy music took so long to develop; album art is still on our iPod, Spotify, Tidal and Google Play, it’s enlarged and hung on our walls or printed proudly on t-shirts. It seems obvious now, but at the time it was a revelation. Advertisers must continue to look past the traditional, the typical and the conventional to find new ways to cut through the clutter - to find the blank slates that are staring us in the face.

Alex in his Design Studio

To see more of his work, go to: