(originally posted 28th May 2012)
Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
EMI Harvest 1973
Design by Hipgnosis with George Hardie
Back in the early 70s, when a band told a record company that they were hiring their own designers to create the artwork for their new album, that record company was sure to be nervous especially when the band’s previous sleeves had featured a cow, trippy, abstract photographic montages and often didn’t feature the band name or album title.
Then again, when the band was shifting as many albums as Pink Floyd, what could EMI do but accept what ever was presented?
The agency commissioned to carry out the design were Hipgnosis who had also been responsible for Pink Floyd’s previous albums Saucerful of Secrets (1968) and Atom Heart Mother (1970) as well as many of the most memorable, eye-catching and controversial sleeves of the 60s and 70s. The brief for Dark Side of the Moon was to come up with a stylish, smarter image that moved away from the photographic images of the past. The prism concept was one of seven ideas presented to the band and it took only three minutes for them to agree that this was the best way forward.
The original illustration of the prism came from a book in the Hipgnosis studio. The idea, apparently, being that Pink Floyd were about “sound and light” – the rays of light turn into soundwaves on the inside spread. The original image showed the prism against a white background but was redrawn on black to make it look more striking and stylish. The six colours (indigo was dropped as it too similar to violet) that are emitted through the prism continue onto the middle spread where, as mentioned above, they transform into soundwaves and then back again. The outer and inner spread also cleverly line-up to form a seamless pattern for in-store displays.
Echoing the prism, was a poster of the Great Pyramid at Giza that was contained, along with a live poster of the band, inside the sleeve. Illustrator George Hardie then created two postcard size stickers that completed the package.
Dark Side of the Moon’s iconic illustration leant itself to future applications such as merchandise far better than perhaps any sleeve before it. It has also been reinterpreted by the band over the years as reissued and anniversary editions have been released. For the twentieth anniversary, photographer Tony May recreated the cover by actually passing a beam of white light through a glass prism and in 2003, to mark the album’s 30th anniversary, Storm Thorgerson – one of the founding members of Hipgnosis – reproduced the design in stained glass before photographing it against a background of trees and buildings. With the album’s 40th anniversary next year, one wonders what is being planned next.
Hipgnosis, and in particular Storm Thorgerson, continue to work with Pink Floyd to this day.
So, what make sit a great sleeve? It’s simplicity, that is all. And because it is so simple it is eyecatching and memorable. And timeless.
The author of this series on Great Album Covers is Martin Rowsell, Managing and Creative Director of Simply Marvellous Creative Ltd, A British design agency working with musicians on their websites, branding and artwork. Recent clients have included award winning singer Eddi Reader, Legendary record producer Phil Ramone and acclaimed folk band, Lau. Visit the Simply Marvellous website or Facebook page.