27 December 2010

Alex Steinweiss: Creator of the Modern Album Cover book

Spotted this book a while ago although it was in deluxe packaging on the US version of Amazon with a price tag featuring hundreds of dollars. 477.75 of them, to be exact. (Although it was discounted from $700.)

Next month a new version arrives in the UK with an pre-order figure of £38.24 - which is far more viable were I to treat myself.

There's a link to that version here:
Alex Steinweiss, the Inventor of the Modern Album Cover

"This title presents music for the eyes. The man who launched the Golden Age of album cover design. Alex Steinweiss invented the album cover as we know it, and created a new graphic art form. In 1940, as Columbia Records' young new art director, he pitched an idea: Why not replace the standard plain brown wrapper with an eye-catching illustration? The company took a chance, and within months its record sales increased by over 800 per cent. His covers for Columbia - combining bold typography with modern, elegant illustrations - took the industry by storm and revolutionized the way records were sold.

Over three decades, Steinweiss made thousands of original artworks for classical, jazz, and popular record covers for Columbia, Decca, London, and Everest; as well as logos, labels, advertising material, even his own typeface, the Steinweiss Scrawl. He launched the golden age of album cover design and influenced generations of designers to follow. Less well known - but included here - are his posters for the U.S. Navy; packaging and label design for liquor companies; film title sequences; as well as his fine art.

This title includes essays by three-time Grammy Award-winning art director/designer Kevin Reagan and graphic design historian Steven Heller; Steinweiss' personal recollections from an epic career; and extensive ephemera from the Steinweiss archive. Record collectors and graphic designers rejoice! Previously available in a limited edition, the book is finally available in an affordable trade version."

Some more info from Burning Settlers Cabin:

There was a time in the 1970s and 80s when record album designers were gods. If you saw one on the street you bowed down immediately and kissed his or her hand. They had the power to decide what was cool, and what was not. They could ignore budgets and demand the sleeve be wrapped in rubber. I had one teacher who would come to class and start with, “Sorry I was late. I was having lunch with Mick.” He didn’t mean Mick Hodgson at Ph.D. It wasn’t that way from the beginning. It started with Alex Steinweiss. Steven Heller, Kevin Reagan, and Steinweiss have written a new book, Alex Steinweiss: Creator of the Modern Album Cover

Working at Columbia Records in the 1940s he changed the industry. He replaced the previously generic stamped covers with remarkable 12×12 posters. These album covers reference European modernism, A.M. Cassandre, and Salavdor Dali in form. They succeed in combining this high art aesthetic with wit and levity. Without knowing who made it, one of my biggest influences in high school was his cover for Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2. I’m pretty sure I somehow transposed the Russian landscape here into a poster for the school musical, Oklahoma.

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