Art you can dance to. How the record sleeve was turned into something beautiful.

It seems quite remarkable that it took until 1939 for the music industry to take advantage of the natural advertising real estate of the record sleeve. Until that point record sleeves were plain and drab. In 1939, Columbia Records in New York hired a young 23-year-old to become art director of the company. His name was Alex Steinweiss and he was given the job of creating ad’s for Columbia’s latest recordings.

Never mind the adverts, Steinweiss thought the products themselves needed improving. “The way records were sold was ridiculous,” he said in a later interview. “The covers were brown, tan or green paper. They were not attractive, and lacked sales appeal.” He persuaded the suits to let him loose to design something more attractive. This was his first attempt, not bad, huh!

Steinweiss went on to design over 2,500 record sleeves in his career which extended into the 1970’s, including these ones:

Perhaps a hint of Dark Side Of The Moon?

He set in motion the notion the record sleeves were the perfect home for 12″ x 12″ pieces of art and design. All those wonderful images of swimming Nirvana Babies, Sgt Peppers, Yellow bananas, bulging trouser zips and  light diffracting through a prism started from here, with this man’s great idea.

Sadly Alex Steinweiss died at the weekend, aged 94. He left behind a collection of wonderful images both on record sleeves and beyond. You can learn more about him in this wonderful little video:

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One thought on “Art you can dance to. How the record sleeve was turned into something beautiful.

  1. Although I believe that digital recording is the best medium for music reproduction. Album art has become a lost treasure. I have about 800 albums in my collection and about 1000 CD’s. For me, it is hard to appreciate the artwork on a CD when the image is only 5 inches square. Alex Steinweiss did have an impact on my life as well as many others even if you did not own an album that he designed.

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