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Hipgnosis was a British art design group that specialized in creating cover art for the albums of rock musicians and bands, most notably Pink Floyd, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, 10CC and The Alan Parsons Project. Hipgnosis consisted primarily of Storm Thorgerson, Aubrey Powell, and later, Peter Christopherson. The group dissolved in 1983, but Thorgerson still works on album designs.


[edit] History

In 1968 Thorgerson and Powell were approached by their friends in Pink Floyd to design the cover for the group's second album, A Saucerful of Secrets. This led to additional work for EMI, including photos and album covers for Free, Toe Fat and The Gods. Being film and art school students, they were able to use the darkroom at the Royal College of Art, but when they completed school, they had to set up their own facilities. They built a small darkroom in Powell's bathroom, but shortly thereafter, in early 1970, rented space and built a studio.

When first starting out, Powell and Thorgerson adopted their name from graffiti they found on the door to their apartment. Thorgerson said they liked the word, not only for sounding like "hypnosis," but for possessing "a nice sense of contradiction, of an impossible co-existence, from Hip = new and groove, and Gnostic, relating to ancient learning."[1]

Hipgnosis gained major international prominence in 1973 with their famed cover design for Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. The final design was one of a several versions prepared for the band to choose from, but according to drummer Nick Mason, the 'prism/pyramid' design was the immediate and unanimous choice. The record itself was wildly successful -- it became one of the biggest-selling and longest-charting albums of all time, putting it in the hands of millions of fans, and it has since been hailed as one of the best album covers of all time (VH1 rated the cover as #4, in 2003). After that, the firm became in-demand, and did many covers for high-profile bands and artists such as Led Zeppelin, Genesis, UFO, Black Sabbath, Peter Gabriel, and The Alan Parsons Project. They also designed the cover for the original UK paperback edition of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Peter Christopherson joined Hipgnosis as an assistant in 1974, and later became a full partner. The firm employed many assistants and other staff members over the years. Of particular note were freelance artists George Hardie, Colin Elgie, Richard Evans and Richard Manning.

One notable fact was that Hipgnosis did not have a set fee for designing an album cover but instead asked the artists to "pay what they thought it was worth," a policy that only occasionally backfired according to Thorgerson in his book on album cover design.

[edit] Style

The front cover of 10cc's Deceptive Bends, illustrating a common style of Hipgnosis -- an enigmatic scene in high-focus, with dramatic lighting.

Hipgnosis' approach to album design was strongly photography-oriented, and they pioneered the use of many innovative visual and packaging techniques. In particular, Thorgerson & Powell's surreal, elaborately manipulated photos (utilizing darkroom tricks, multiple exposures, airbrush retouching, and mechanical cut-and-paste techniques) were a film-based forerunner of what would, much later, be called photoshopping. Hipgnosis used primarily Hasselblad medium format cameras for their work, the square film format being especially suited to album cover imagery.

Hipgnosis covers were noted for their quirky humour, such as the cover for the Pink Floyd double-LP compilation A Nice Pair, which featured an array of visual puns. Another trademark was that many of their cover photos told "stories" directly related to the album's lyrics, often based on puns or double meanings of words in the album title. Since both Powell and Thorgerson were film students, they often used models as "actors" and staged the photos in a highly theatrical manner. Hipgnosis covers rarely featured artists' photos on the outside, and most were in a gatefold cover format to provide ample space for their slickly photographed tableaux.

Many of Hipgnosis' covers also featured distinctively "high tech" pen and ink logos and illustrations (often by graphic designer George Hardie), stickers, fancy inner sleeves, and other packaging bonuses.

[edit] Catalogue of work

Year Artist Album
1968 Pink Floyd A Saucerful of Secrets
1968 Gods, TheThe Gods Genesis
1969 Pink Floyd More
1969 Gods, TheThe Gods To Samuel a Son
1969 Pink Floyd Ummagumma
1970 Greatest Show on Earth, TheThe Greatest Show on Earth Horizons
1970 Pink Floyd Atom Heart Mother
1970 Quatermass Quatermass
1970 Pretty Things, TheThe Pretty Things Parachute
1970 Greatest Show on Earth, TheThe Greatest Show on Earth The Going's Easy
1970 Barrett, SydSyd Barrett The Madcap Laughs
1970 Nice, TheThe Nice Five Bridges
1970 Toe Fat Toe Fat
1970 Cochise Cochise
1970 Various artists, Harvest Records compilation Picnic - A Breath of Fresh Air
1971 T.Rex Electric Warrior
1971 Toe Fat Toe Fat 2
1971 Marvin, Welch & Farrar Marvin, Welch & Farrar
1971 Nice, TheThe Nice Elegy
1971 Pink Floyd Meddle
1971 Electric Light Orchestra The Electric Light Orchestra
1971 Audience House on the Hill
1971 Edgar Broughton Band Edgar Broughton Band
1971 Wishbone Ash Pilgrimage
1971 Climax Blues Band Tightly Knit
1971 Tear Gas Tear Gas
1971 Stackridge Stackridge
1972 Wishbone Ash Argus
1972 Nice, TheThe Nice Autumn '67 - Spring '68
1972 Renaissance Prologue
1972 Edgar Broughton Band Inside Out
1972 Audience Lunch
1972 Pretty Things, TheThe Pretty Things Freeway Madness
1972 Pink Floyd Obscured by Clouds
1972 Blue Mink A Time of Change
1972 Cook, RogerRoger Cook Meanwhile...Back at the World
1973 Electric Light Orchestra ELO 2
1973 Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon
1973 Cook, RogerRoger Cook Minstrel in Flight
1973 Electric Light Orchestra On the Third Day
1973 Edgar Broughton Band Oora
1973 Stewart, AlAl Stewart Past, Present and Future
1973 Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy
1973 Audience You Can't Beat 'em
1973 Harper, RoyRoy Harper Lifemask
1973 Renaissance Ashes Are Burning
1973 Wishbone Ash Wishbone Four
1973 Wishbone Ash Live Dates
1973 Various artists Music from Free Creek
1973 Humble Pie Thunderbox
1973 Emerson, Lake & Palmer Trilogy
1974 Sharks Jab It in Yore Eye
1974 Uno Uno
1974 Wishbone Ash There's the Rub
1974 Renaissance Turn of the Cards
1974 Harper, RoyRoy Harper Valentine
1974 Harper, RoyRoy Harper Flashes from the Archives of Oblivion
1974 Bad Company Bad Company
1974 Genesis The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
1974 Blue Mink Fruity
1974 Barrett, SydSyd Barrett Syd Barrett
1974 10cc Sheet Music
1974 Pink Floyd A Nice Pair
1974 Pretty Things, TheThe Pretty Things Silk Torpedo
1974 UFO Phenomenon
1975 UFO Force It
1975 Pretty Things, TheThe Pretty Things Savage Eye
1975 Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here
1975 Bad Company Straight Shooter
1975 Renaissance Scheherazade and Other Stories
1975 Harper, RoyRoy Harper HQ
1975 Edgar Broughton Band A Bunch of 45s
1975 Greatest Show on Earth, TheThe Greatest Show on Earth The Greatest Show on Earth
1975 10cc The Original Soundtrack
1975 Pretty Things, TheThe Pretty Things S.F. Sorrow / Parachute, double reissue (UK version only)
1975 Stewart, AlAl Stewart Modern Times
1975 Wings Venus and Mars
1975 Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias
1975 Caravan Cunning Stunts
1975 Sassafras Wheelin 'n' Dealin
1975 Sargeant, BobBob Sargeant First Starring Role
1975 Strife Rush
1975 Winkies, TheThe Winkies The Winkies
1976 AC/DC Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
1976 Montrose Jump on It
1976 Kevin Coyne Heartburn
1976 Wings Wings at the Speed of Sound
1976 Stewart, AlAl Stewart Year of the Cat
1976 Parsons Project, The AlanThe Alan Parsons Project Tales of Mystery and Imagination
1976 Black Sabbath Technical Ecstasy
1976 Genesis A Trick of the Tail
1976 10cc How Dare You!
1976 Led Zeppelin The Song Remains the Same
1976 Led Zeppelin Presence
1976 Brand X Unorthodox Behaviour
1976 Wings Wings over America
1976 UFO No Heavy Petting
1976 Wishbone Ash New England
1977 Wishbone Ash Front Page News
1977 UFO Lights Out
1977 Genesis Wind & Wuthering
1977 Parsons Project, The AlanThe Alan Parsons Project I Robot
1977 10cc Deceptive Bends
1977 Harper, RoyRoy Harper Bullinamingvase
1977 Brand X Moroccan Roll
1977 Hagar, SammySammy Hagar Sammy Hagar
1977 Stewart, AlAl Stewart The Early Years
1977 Hagar, SammySammy Hagar Musical Chairs
1977 Bad Company Burnin' Sky
1977 Pink Floyd Animals
1977 Electric Light Orchestra The Light Shines On
1977 Gabriel, PeterPeter Gabriel Peter Gabriel (I) (aka "Car")
1977 Yes Going for the One
1977 Hawkwind Quark, Strangeness and Charm
1977 Status Quo Live!
1977 Strawbs Deadlines
1977 Moody Blues, TheThe Moody Blues Caught Live + 5
1978 Wright, RichardRichard Wright Wet Dream
1978 Gilmour, DavidDavid Gilmour David Gilmour
1978 Styx Pieces of Eight
1978 Rundgren, ToddTodd Rundgren Back to the Bars
1978 XTC Go 2,
1978 Pezband Laughing in the Dark
1978 Yes Tormato
1978 Genesis …And Then There Were Three…
1978 Wishbone Ash No Smoke Without Fire
1978 Gabriel, PeterPeter Gabriel Peter Gabriel (II) (aka "Scratch")
1978 Stewart, AlAl Stewart Time Passages
1978 Parsons Project, The AlanThe Alan Parsons Project Pyramid
1978 Black Sabbath Never Say Die!
1978 Renaissance A Song for All Seasons
1978 UFO Obsession
1978 10cc Bloody Tourists
1979 UFO Strangers in the Night
1979 Scorpions Lovedrive
1979 Parsons Project, The AlanThe Alan Parsons Project Eve
1979 Bad Company Desolation Angels
1979 Edgar Broughton Band Parlez-Vous English (as The Broughtons)
1979 10cc Greatest Hits 1972-1978
1979 Led Zeppelin In Through the Out Door
1979 Brand X Product
1979 Brooker, GaryGary Brooker No More Fear of Flying
1979 Hillage, SteveSteve Hillage Live Herald
1979 Godley & Creme Freeze Frame
1979 UK Danger Money
1979 Taylor, MickMick Taylor Mick Taylor
1980 Pretty Things, TheThe Pretty Things Cross Talk
1980 Brand X Do They Hurt?
1980 10cc Look Hear?
1980 Gabriel, PeterPeter Gabriel Peter Gabriel (III) (aka "Melt")
1980 Scorpions Animal Magnetism
1980 UFO No Place to Run
1980 Wishbone Ash Just Testing
1981 UFO The Wild, the Willing and the Innocent
1981 Pink Floyd A Collection of Great Dance Songs
1981 Rainbow Difficult to Cure
1981 Mason, NickNick Mason Fictitious Sports
1981 Taylor, RogerRoger Taylor Fun in Space
1981 Def Leppard High 'n' Dry
1981 Matsutoya, YumiYumi Matsutoya Sakuban oai shimasho
1982 McCartney, PaulPaul McCartney Tug of War
1982 Rainbow Straight Between the Eyes
1982 Parsons Project, The AlanThe Alan Parsons Project Eye in the Sky
1982 Bad Company Rough Diamonds
1982 Led Zeppelin Coda

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Thorgerson, S: Hipgnosis • Walk Away René, page 87. Paper Tiger, 1978.

[edit] References

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