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Hipgnosis was an English art design group based in London [1] that 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. [2] 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. [3]

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." [4]

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"), [5] as well as the original UK hardcover edition of Norman Spinrad's Bug Jack Barron . [6]

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, [7] George Hardie, [8] and Richard Manning. [9]

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", [10] a policy that only occasionally backfired according to Thorgerson in his book on album cover design. [11]


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. [12]

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
The Gods Genesis
Pepe Jaramillo Till There Was You
The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation
1969 Pink Floyd More
The Gods To Samuel a Son
Pink Floyd Ummagumma
Panama Limited Jug BandPanama 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
Quatermass Quatermass
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
Cochise Cochise
Harvest Records artists Picnic – A Breath of Fresh Air
Panama LimitedIndian Summer
Sounds NiceLove at First Sight
Gravy Train Gravy Train
Syd Barrett Barrett
The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation Remains to Be Heard
Argent Ring of Hands
Jackson Heights King Progress
Twink Think Pink
Probe Records artistsHandle With Care
1971 T. Rex Electric Warrior
Toe Fat Toe Fat 2
Trees On the Shore
Marvin, Welch & Farrar Marvin, Welch & Farrar
The Nice Elegy
Pink Floyd Meddle
Electric Light Orchestra The Electric Light Orchestra
Audience House on the Hill
Edgar Broughton Band Edgar Broughton Band
Wishbone Ash Pilgrimage
Climax Blues Band Tightly Knit
Tear Gas Tear Gas
Stackridge Stackridge
Daddy LonglegsOakdown Farm
The Masters Apprentices Master's Apprentices
John Williams Changes
Pink Floyd Piper at the Gates of Dawn (Italian reissue)
Rory Gallagher Rory Gallagher
1972 Flash Flash
Wishbone Ash Argus
The Nice Autumn '67 – Spring '68
Fumble Fumble
The Hollies Distant Light
Renaissance Prologue
Edgar Broughton Band Inside Out
Audience Lunch
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
The Hollies Romany
Olivia Newton-John Olivia
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
Argent In Deep
Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy
Audience You Can't Beat 'em
Roy Harper Lifemask
Renaissance Ashes Are Burning
Wishbone Ash Wishbone Four
Live Dates
Flash Out of Our Hands
Various artists Music from Free Creek
Humble Pie Thunderbox
Vinegar Joe Rock 'n Roll Gypsies
Babe Ruth Amar Caballero
Pink Floyd A Nice Pair
Public Foot The RomanPublic 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
Nazareth Rampant
Renaissance Turn of the Cards
Roy Harper Valentine
Peter Frampton Somethin's Happening
Roy Harper Flashes from the Archives of Oblivion
Bad Company Bad Company
Blue Mink Fruity
Fumble Poetry in Lotion
Syd Barrett Syd Barrett
10cc Sheet Music
The Pretty Things Silk Torpedo
UFO Phenomenon
Cyril Havermans Mind Wave
The Hollies Hollies
Sweet Desolation Boulevard
1975 UFO Force It
The Pretty Things Savage Eye
Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here
Bad Company Straight Shooter
Renaissance Scheherazade and Other Stories
Roy Harper HQ
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
Caravan Cunning Stunts
Sassafras Wheelin 'n' Dealin
Bob Sargeant First Starring Role
Strife Rush
The Winkies The Winkies
Solution Cordon Bleu
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
Kevin Coyne Heartburn
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
Led Zeppelin Presence
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
Justin Hayward Songwriter
UFO Lights Out
The Alan Parsons Project I Robot
10cc Deceptive Bends
Roy Harper Bullinamingvase
Brand X Moroccan Roll
Sammy Hagar Sammy Hagar
Al Stewart The Early Years
Sammy Hagar Musical Chairs
Bad Company Burnin' Sky
Pink Floyd Animals
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
Space Deliverance
Status Quo Live!
Strawbs Deadlines
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
1978 Manset 2870
Pezband Laughing in the Dark
Be-Bop Deluxe Drastic Plastic
Richard Wright Wet Dream
David Gilmour David Gilmour
Styx Pieces of Eight
Wings Wings Greatest
Todd Rundgren Back to the Bars
XTC Go 2
Robin Trower Caravan to Midnight
Yes Tormato
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
Synergy Cords
UFO Obsession
10cc Bloody Tourists
The Motors Approved by the Motors (version 2) [13]
John Miles Zaragon
Hot Chocolate Every 1's a Winner
The Walker Brothers Nite Flights
Wings London Town
Gerry Rafferty Gerry Rafferty
Novalis Vielleicht Bist Du Ein Clown?
1979 UFO Strangers in the Night
Scorpions Lovedrive
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
Brand X Product
Gary Brooker No More Fear of Flying
Steve Hillage Live Herald
Godley & Creme Freeze Frame
U.K. Danger Money
Mick Taylor Mick Taylor
Ashra Correlations
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
10cc Look Hear?
Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel (III) (aka "Melt")
Scorpions Animal Magnetism
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
Cozy Powell Tilt
Rick Wakeman 1984
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
Led Zeppelin Coda
1983 Rainbow Bent Out of Shape

See also

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  2. The photodesigns of Hipgnosis The Goodbye look. Vermillion Hutchinson Publishing Group. 1982 ISBN   0 091506417
  3. Gioia, Ted (8 December 2014). "The Golden Age of Rock Album Covers". The Daily Beast . Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  4. Thorgerson, S: Hipgnosis • Walk Away René, page 87. Paper Tiger, 1978.
  5. Sweeting, Adam (18 April 2013). "Storm Thorgerson dies aged 69: 'the best album designer in the world' – Art and design – guardian.co.uk". The Guardian . London. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  6. "Bug Jack Barron – book 1970". Hipgnosiscovers.com.
  7. "Biography". rdevans.com. 2011. Archived from the original on 3 April 2012. Retrieved 22 October 2011.
  8. "George Hardie | Alumni and associates | Arts and Humanities". Arts.brighton.ac.uk. 22 January 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  9. discogs, list of albums artists retouched
  10. Perrin, Jean-Éric; Rey, Jerôme; Verlant, Gilles (2009). Les Miscellanées du rock (in French). Paris: Éditions Fetjaine / La Martinière. p. 154. ISBN   9782354251307. [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.)
  11. "The Eye Of The Storm | Storm Thorgerson Exhibition". For Arts Sake. 28 June 2017. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  12. "LED ZEPPELIN 50th Anniversary | Create your playlist". lz50.ledzeppelin.com. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  13. Version 1 of the album shows an image of all four members. This first cover was designed by Cooke Key Associates. After Ricky Slaughter and Bram Tchaikovsky left The Motors the album was reissued with a new cover. That new cover is designed by Hipgnosis.