Fans have always noticed and appreciated the righteous cover art on their favorite artists’ albums. The packaging of the music has been nearly as important as the music inside. One only has to think Abbey Road, and never again does the thought that the cover merely houses the music. In today’s market, if a signed album cover from a significant artist or group is available for sale, it can sell for thousands of US dollars.

Cover art graphic designers come from all over. They are artists who specialize in designing album covers, but also dabble in T-shirt design and other paraphernalia for the music industry. Along with the wide variety of musical genres, also comes the number of widely diverse graphic designers. Different designers for the assortment of types of music act as the bridge crane between the expression of the musicians’ sound and the visual first impression on the face of the product.

When a person is hired to do an album cover, they study the project from the inside out. They have to feel the message and determine the tone of the graphic before they put several suggestions up for consideration. However, the final say is seldom with the graphic designer. Sometimes the record label wants a specific look. The musical talent, themselves may have a specific idea in mind. The art has to be flexible and be able to translate from album cover to other related merchandise.

Choosing photography, typeface, scale, color, mood, layout and formatting that will tell the story the musicians want to tell is all a process – and often long and tedious. You may have heard the saying; You eat with your eyes first? Well even if you are very aware of the talent within the album, the cover art influences buying decisions. Yes, we are driven to or from a product, whether we love it or not by a first visual impression.

The client’s artistic vision can sometimes be pulled using graphic design software. This approach has produced beautiful covers because the designer is clever and talented. Often a graphic designer will come up with an album cover from scratch, which automatically puts a unique quality to the final presentation. I have no doubt every cover has its own stamp of uniqueness and as time passes it is what makes them highly sought after as collector’s items.

Some ‘record houses’ have a full time staff of in-house designers and others depend on freelancers. Often it’s someone who has been referred from the “inner circle”. Once an album designer’s work gets a fair amount of recognition, new business comes regularly. At that point a designer can set their personal fee rate. Payment is not customarily linked to the number of albums sold – which can be a good thing. After a graphic artist has put in her best effort, it should not be dependent on the musical artists or their marketing department.

If you are interested in designing for the music industry, the best place to start is with a degree in graphic art. Learning the software packages and basic design skills that train you in becoming proficient are the right tools to begin. It is a competitive field, but the best always find their way to the top. Are you interested in becoming one of the best?


At Byte Me Discs we’ve seen probably every album cover that has hit the public eye. We have our favorites. Leave a comment below and tell us which covers have stood the test of time in your opinion. Which ae the iconic classics and why?

Next post – 10 of the coolest disc cover designs and the artists that brought them to us.