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Hipgnosis was an English art design group based in Londonthat specialised in creating cover art for the albums of rock musicians and bands. Notable commissions included work for Pink Floyd, T. Rex, the Pretty Things, Black Sabbath, UFO, 10cc, Bad Company, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Scorpions, The Nice, Paul McCartney & Wings, the Alan Parsons Project, Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Electric Light Orchestra, Rainbow, Styx, and Al Stewart.
Hipgnosis consisted primarily of Cambridge natives Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell, and later Peter Christopherson.The group dissolved in 1983, though Thorgerson worked on album designs until his death in 2013. Powell works in film and video, most notably with Paul McCartney and The Who, and is the creative director for both Pink Floyd and its member David Gilmour.
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 the Pretty Things, 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 located at 6 Denmark Street.
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 punning on "hypnosis," but for possessing "a nice sense of contradiction, of an impossible co-existence, from Hip = new, cool, and groovy, and Gnostic, relating to ancient learning."
Hipgnosis gained major international prominence in 1973 with their famed cover design for Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon . The final design was one of 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 No. 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, the Alan Parsons Project, and Yes. They also designed the cover for the original UK paperback edition of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Adams would describe Thorgerson as "The best album designer in the world"),as well as the original UK hardcover edition of Norman Spinrad's Bug Jack Barron .
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 designers and illustrators Richard Evans,George Hardie, 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.
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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. Such humour once angered Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, when Hipgnosis created a visual pun based on "(tennis) racquet"/"(noise) racket" for the album Houses of the Holy . Hipgnosis almost lost Led Zeppelin as a client as a result.
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. One of the unique extras created by Hipgnosis was the specially printed inner sleeve for Led Zeppelin's In Through the Out Door LP, a "black and white" affair that magically turned to colour when dampened with water (tying in with the main cover's photographic theme).
|1968||Pink Floyd||A Saucerful of Secrets|
|Alexis Korner||A New Generation of Blues|
|Pepe Jaramillo||Till There Was You|
|The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation||The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation|
|The Gods||To Samuel a Son|
|Panama Limited Jug Band||Panama Limited Jug Band|
|Humble Pie||Town and Country|
|Island Records artists||You Can All Join In|
|1970||The Greatest Show on Earth||Horizons|
|Pink Floyd||Atom Heart Mother|
|The Pretty Things||Parachute|
|The Greatest Show on Earth||The Going's Easy|
|Syd Barrett||The Madcap Laughs|
|The Nice||Five Bridges|
|Toe Fat||Toe Fat|
|Harvest Records artists||Picnic – A Breath of Fresh Air|
|Panama Limited||Indian Summer|
|Sounds Nice||Love at First Sight|
|Gravy Train||Gravy Train|
|The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation||Remains to Be Heard|
|Argent||Ring of Hands|
|Jackson Heights||King Progress|
|Probe Records artists||Handle With Care|
|1971||T. Rex||Electric Warrior|
|Toe Fat||Toe Fat 2|
|Trees||On the Shore|
|Marvin, Welch & Farrar||Marvin, Welch & Farrar|
|Electric Light Orchestra||The Electric Light Orchestra|
|Audience||House on the Hill|
|Edgar Broughton Band||Edgar Broughton Band|
|Climax Blues Band||Tightly Knit|
|Tear Gas||Tear Gas|
|Daddy Longlegs||Oakdown Farm|
|The Masters Apprentices||Master's Apprentices|
|Pink Floyd||Piper at the Gates of Dawn (Italian reissue)|
|Rory Gallagher||Rory Gallagher|
|The Nice||Autumn '67 – Spring '68|
|The Hollies||Distant Light|
|Edgar Broughton Band||Inside Out|
|The Pretty Things||Freeway Madness|
|Pink Floyd||Obscured by Clouds|
|Emerson, Lake & Palmer||Trilogy|
|Blue Mink||A Time of Change|
|Roger Cook||Meanwhile...Back at the World|
|Labi Siffre||Crying Laughing Loving Lying|
|1973||Electric Light Orchestra||ELO 2|
|Pink Floyd||The Dark Side of the Moon|
|Roger Cook||Minstrel in Flight|
|Electric Light Orchestra||On the Third Day|
|Edgar Broughton Band||Oora|
|Al Stewart||Past, Present and Future|
|Led Zeppelin||Houses of the Holy|
|Audience||You Can't Beat 'em|
|Renaissance||Ashes Are Burning|
|Wishbone Ash||Wishbone Four|
|Flash||Out of Our Hands|
|Various artists||Music from Free Creek|
|Vinegar Joe||Rock 'n Roll Gypsies|
|Babe Ruth||Amar Caballero|
|Pink Floyd||A Nice Pair|
|Public Foot The Roman||Public Foot The Roman|
|The Shadows||Rockin' with Curly Leads|
|1974||Sharks||Jab It in Yore Eye|
|Genesis||The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway|
|Wishbone Ash||There's the Rub|
|Renaissance||Turn of the Cards|
|Peter Frampton||Somethin's Happening|
|Roy Harper||Flashes from the Archives of Oblivion|
|Bad Company||Bad Company|
|Fumble||Poetry in Lotion|
|Syd Barrett||Syd Barrett|
|The Pretty Things||Silk Torpedo|
|Cyril Havermans||Mind Wave|
|The Pretty Things||Savage Eye|
|Pink Floyd||Wish You Were Here|
|Bad Company||Straight Shooter|
|Renaissance||Scheherazade and Other Stories|
|Edgar Broughton Band||A Bunch of 45s|
|The Greatest Show on Earth||The Greatest Show on Earth|
|10cc||The Original Soundtrack|
|The Pretty Things||S.F. Sorrow / Parachute , double reissue (UK version only)|
|Al Stewart||Modern Times|
|Wings||Venus and Mars|
|Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias||Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias|
|Sassafras||Wheelin 'n' Dealin|
|Bob Sargeant||First Starring Role|
|The Winkies||The Winkies|
|Dave Edmunds||Subtle as a Flying Mallet|
|The Shadows||Specs Appeal|
|1976||AC/DC||Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (International edition)|
|Golden Earring||To the Hilt|
|Montrose||Jump on It|
|Wings||Wings at the Speed of Sound|
|Al Stewart||Year of the Cat|
|The Alan Parsons Project||Tales of Mystery and Imagination|
|Black Sabbath||Technical Ecstasy|
|Genesis||A Trick of the Tail|
|10cc||How Dare You!|
|Led Zeppelin||The Song Remains the Same|
|Brand X||Unorthodox Behaviour|
|Wings||Wings over America|
|Jon Anderson||Olias of Sunhillow|
|Nazareth||Close Enough for Rock 'n' Roll|
|UFO||No Heavy Petting|
|Wishbone Ash||New England|
|Genesis||Wind & Wuthering|
|John Miles||Stranger in the City|
|The Hollies||Russian Roulette|
|1977||Wishbone Ash||Front Page News|
|The Alan Parsons Project||I Robot|
|Brand X||Moroccan Roll|
|Sammy Hagar||Sammy Hagar|
|Al Stewart||The Early Years|
|Sammy Hagar||Musical Chairs|
|Bad Company||Burnin' Sky|
|Electric Light Orchestra||The Light Shines On|
|Peter Gabriel||Peter Gabriel (I) (aka "Car")|
|Yes||Going for the One|
|Fabulous Poodles||Mirror Stars|
|Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel||Face to Face: A Live Recording|
|Hawkwind||Quark, Strangeness and Charm|
|The Moody Blues||Caught Live + 5|
|Paul McCartney (as "Percy 'Thrills' Thrillington")||Thrillington|
|Wings||Mull of Kintyre (song) and Girls' School (song)|
|Wishbone Ash||Classic Ash|
|Pezband||Laughing in the Dark|
|Be-Bop Deluxe||Drastic Plastic|
|Richard Wright||Wet Dream|
|David Gilmour||David Gilmour|
|Styx||Pieces of Eight|
|Todd Rundgren||Back to the Bars|
|Robin Trower||Caravan to Midnight|
|Genesis||…And Then There Were Three…|
|Wishbone Ash||No Smoke Without Fire|
|Peter Gabriel||Peter Gabriel (II) (aka "Scratch")|
|Al Stewart||Time Passages|
|The Alan Parsons Project||Pyramid|
|Black Sabbath||Never Say Die!|
|Renaissance||A Song for All Seasons|
|The Motors||Approved by the Motors (version 2)|
|Hot Chocolate||Every 1's a Winner|
|The Walker Brothers||Nite Flights|
|Gerry Rafferty||Gerry Rafferty|
|Novalis||Vielleicht Bist Du Ein Clown?|
|1979||UFO||Strangers in the Night|
|The Alan Parsons Project||Eve|
|Bad Company||Desolation Angels|
|The Dukes||The Dukes|
|Edgar Broughton Band||Parlez-Vous English (as The Broughtons)|
|10cc||Greatest Hits 1972–1978|
|Led Zeppelin||In Through the Out Door|
|Gary Brooker||No More Fear of Flying|
|Steve Hillage||Live Herald|
|Godley & Creme||Freeze Frame|
|Mick Taylor||Mick Taylor|
|Ralph McTell||Slide Away the Screen|
|Throbbing Gristle||20 Jazz Funk Greats|
|Judie Tzuke||Welcome to the Cruise|
|Wings||Back to the Egg|
|1980||The Michael Schenker Group||The Michael Schenker Group|
|The Pretty Things||Cross Talk|
|Brand X||Do They Hurt?|
|Mike Rutherford||Smallcreep's Day|
|Peter Gabriel||Peter Gabriel (III) (aka "Melt")|
|UFO||No Place to Run|
|John Wetton||Caught in the Crossfire|
|Wishbone Ash||Just Testing|
|Leo Sayer||Living in a Fantasy|
|The Police||De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da|
|Wishbone Ash||Live Dates 2|
|1981||UFO||The Wild, the Willing and the Innocent|
|Pink Floyd||A Collection of Great Dance Songs|
|Rainbow||Difficult to Cure|
|Nick Mason||Fictitious Sports|
|Roger Taylor||Fun in Space|
|Def Leppard||High 'n' Dry|
|Yumi Matsutoya||Sakuban Oaisimashō|
|Herman Rarebell||Nip in the Bud|
|1982||John McLaughlin||Music Spoken Here|
|Paul McCartney||Tug of War|
|Rainbow||Straight Between the Eyes|
|The Alan Parsons Project||Eye in the Sky|
|Bad Company||Rough Diamonds|
|1983||Rainbow||Bent Out of Shape|
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Aubrey Powell is a British graphic designer who is known better for co-founding the album cover design company Hipgnosis with Storm Thorgerson in 1967. The company ran successfully for 15 years until 1982. Hipgnosis created some of the most innovative and surreal record cover art of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s for many of the most famous rock bands of the era including Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Paul McCartney, Yes, Genesis, 10cc, Peter Gabriel, Bad Company, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Scorpions, Styx, Syd Barrett, and Black Sabbath. Hipgnosis was nominated five times for Grammy Awards.
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George Hardie is an English graphic designer, illustrator and educator, best known for his work producing cover art for the albums of rock musicians and bands with the British art design group Hipgnosis.
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[L]es deux de Hipgnosis avaient la particularité de ne pas réclamer de cachet fixe, mais de demander aux groupes de leur payer ce qu'ils estimaient être la valeur de leur travail!(The italics are present in the original.)