Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Turning eyes into ears

I've been researching music for the eyes: a legacy of record covers from the golden era of design.  This started with a bang in 1939 at Columbia Records, hit its stride with the 12" long playing album format in 1948, and reached a peak around 1968 with the release of the Beatles' White Album. Shortly thereafter, tape cassette format began to shrink the art, and after 1985 CD's recalibrated everyone's standards to a mere 5" square.  Today's iPod listeners have to make do with an on-screen image the size of a saltine, or a tiny icon the size of a Scrabble letter. 
Some of the first records 
I heard as a child had covers 
that are now considered 
works of art. Alex Steinweiss, 1950.  

1951 record album lettering, printed in just two colors, for a 7" two-disc release. More albums at Pinterest on my board.   
My interest in the lettering on record covers began in a thrift store when I could not resist this gem.  I still can't pin down whether it's by Alex Steinweiss [the Gutenberg of cover design, a genius from the very outset] or Jim Flora.  But it captures the essence of the Samba beat.  Columbia liked it so much they recycled it in orange for a Tango album.

Search on either of the designers mentioned above, for a trip down memory lane.  To help remember how that music looked, as well as how it sounded, remember how WE looked while we were listening. 
Note record player at left of scene. 

1 comment:

  1. I vote Steinweiss, as I cannot imagine Flora (or his editor) could have launched a cover devoid of illustration.