When it comes to rock album cover art, it’s basically either BH or AH – before or after Hipgnosis.
Before, LPs typically featured basic portraiture of the artists. After, bands began to embrace the surrealism of Rene Magritte and Salvador Dali – even if they had no idea that those classic artists served as creative inspirations for Hipgnosis.
Founded in 1967 by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey “Po” Powell, then later expanded to include Peter Christopherson and other key contributors, Hipgnosis built upon that foundation with plenty of DIY gumption. They might use a pencil eraser to alter a photo, or take a sharp edge to images in order to create something beyond the bounds of reality.
Their big break came working with Pink Floyd, which included some school pals from Cambridge, and that relationship endured even as Hipgnosis became the gold standard for album cover art. Along the way, the team won five Grammys for package design, despite making their legend during a period before desktop design – when everything had to be done with meticulous, hand-held care.
This combination of gutsy inventiveness, peerless roster and offbeat point of view meant that plenty of myths grew up around the firm. Click through as we recall some of the most unusual stories in the above gallery of 32 Weird Facts About Hipgnosis’ Most Famous Rock Album Covers.
The name, by the way, came from graffiti scrawled on the door of their flat in London’s South Kensington, thought to have been put there by Floyd co-founder Syd Barrett. Whatever its origin, “Hipgnosis” fit their soon-to-be-established aesthetic perfectly, combining the ideas of supreme coolness and ancient learning. Pink Floyd’s manager got Thorgerson and Powell introductions to other hit bands, and Hipgnosis was on its way.
A quirky sense of humor often defined the work, but they never really aligned themselves with the late ’60s vibe. “The cow,” Thorgerson memorably said of a classic Floyd cover, “is hardly psychedelic. It’s just a goddamn cow, isn’t it?”
That was certainly not his last quotable quote. Find out more in the above gallery of 32 Weird Facts About Hipgnosis’ Most Famous Rock Album Covers.