From Miles Davis to Lionel Ritchie...

Music and visual art have always had a close relationship, and the birth of pop culture helped to enshrine this.

It's difficult to think of an iconic album without the front cover popping into your mind, with some fabled graphic designers cutting their teeth through adventurous projects with new musicians.

DJ, producer, and all round advocate of culture Theo Kottis is a renowned crate-digger, someone who literally can't go past a record shop without rifling through the racks.

It's a big summer for the dance talent, with a flurry of high profile releases - and that Jake Bugg remix - helping to push his reputation further and further.

Trained in graphic design, Clash invited Theo Kottis to discuss the humble art of the record cover.

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Kraftwerk - 'Autobahn'
Minimalist perfection. This illusion-like cover commands attention amongst the rows of a record shop.

Tame Impala - 'Lonerism'
This is the amalgamation of the creative styles of my favourite band and also designer, Leif Podhajsky. Kevin Parker, the producer and lead vocalist for Tame Impala took the original photograph and Leif edited. The cover perfectly reflects the music of this album, playing on the theme of isolation. The metal bars at the forefront of the photo shows the separation between the viewer and the people outside, enjoying Paris together. Even the back cover deserves praise; it shows the chaotic but calm environment Kevin works in - plus you can see some of the synths he uses, an obsession of mine!

Leif has collaborated with with a lot of great musicians such as Bonobo, Foals and Mount Kimble, always producing beautiful and usually psychedelic styled art.


It’s hard to pick just one design from this label as they are all instantly recognisable - they use very bold and strong designs that will stick out from your record bag. Not only does Chris Rehberger design these sleeves, but he also helps run the label with Zip & Markus Nikolai - a man of many talents and something I'd aspire to do. Here’s a great article on the designer.

The Beatles - 'Revolver'
This one is well known and well loved - a true classic. The designer Klaus Voorman was a long-time friend of the Beatles, they met during an amphetamine-munching spell, spent in Hamburg in the early 1960s. The group played him the track 'Tomorrow Never Knows' before he sketched the cover out. He also used newspaper cuttings of eyes and lips to go over the drawings.

Peter Saville
I had to include at least one design by Peter Saville - there are so many to choose from. Joy Division artwork is so cool, and speaks volumes despite having no words - not even the name or album title of this new band - with such a controversial name, the minimal design is open to interpretation - “That image is not a mountain range, or a series of waves, but a set of successive pulses from the first pulsar discovered, PSR B1919+21. Joy Division drummer Stephen Morris apparently suggested it after seeing it in the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy in 1977.”

Another favourite from Peter is his work with Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. They used a die cut effect that adds dimensions and illusions. My manager bought me a limited edition copy when I played at a sold out O2 Brixton Academy with Paul Kalkbrenner.

The Alan Parsons Project - 'Pyramid'

Alan Parsons worked at Abbey Road studios just when he was 18 and eventually went on to engineer 'The Dark Side Of The Moon'. The design was by Hipgnosis who also worked on covers for Pink Floyd, T. Rex, The Police. Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Paul McCartney, and Wings.

Miles Davis - 'Bitches Brew'

This cover has history, presented beautifully in a sea/sky landscape - it references the complexity of the jazz fusions sounds, mirroring the political and racial climate of the early 70s. The surrealist art for 'Bitches Brew' was created by German painter Mati Klarwein.

Röyksopp - 'Melody A.M.'
The music in this album induces the perfect day dream, as depicted in the cover - so much so that this album actually fuelled the compiling of this list - I found myself in the zone, distracted only by the design of each album. You will recognise a few of the tracks as they have been used for television adverts.

Kavinsky – 'Nightcall'
The music of this album is used throughout the film Drive, a movie renowned for it's soundtrack. Kavinsky has been so consistent with his music & design output - all his covers and music videos have the same style; he has created his own character who crashes his Testarossa and becomes a zombie (he drives one in real life!).

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Lionel Richie Vinyl
This is a favourite, not only because of that inside sleeve (would you look at that guy!) but because I bought it from Bleeker St Records on a visit to New York - a trip with so many amazing memories!

Beastie Boys - 'License To Ill'

I love the shading on this illustration and real creative feel to the cover. The Beastie logo also looks amazing - like a superhero group in their beastie-mobile! The design work is so intricate - If you look at this in the mirror the jet’s serial number becomes “EATME”.

A Tribe Called Quest - 'Low End Theory'

Great painting of a models body with glow in the dark paint - the linear design accentuates the curves and creates a dark and intriguing silhouette. This design continued to show up throughout Tribe’s career making 'The Painted Lady' hip-hop’s most recognisable mascot.

The Roots - 'Things Fall Apart'
This image stuck with everyone who purchased the album - and even with those who didn't. A powerful and thought provoking demonstration of inequality from the Civil Rights-era, featuring two black teenagers running from police in riot gear. The Roots were trying to address this social injustice through their music.

The Rolling Stones - 'Their Satanic Majesties Request'
The colours make this on first view, but look closely - can you see the Beatles? Yes that's right, the Beatles on a Stones cover - they included them in the cover art to return a favour - the Beatles had included a Stones sweater on their Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover art previously.

Peter Gabriel - 'Peter Gabriel'
Another amazing design by Hipgnosis. These are original polaroid photographs which were manipulated as they were developed, creating eerie and distorted images.

Moire - 'Gel'
R&S always on point with designing, especially their logo - this appeals to the minimalist in me.

ALSO – 'EP01'
Another from R&S - this simplistic style of design was my favourite for a while - the way they've taken chaotic prints, incorporated additional images within these and managed to make this seem to simple and sophisticated is quite the talent!

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