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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, Yes, The Nice, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Def Leppard, Paul McCartney & Wings, the Alan Parsons Project, Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Electric Light Orchestra, the Police, Rainbow, Styx, Pezband, XTC 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 on 18 April 2013, and 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.[citation needed]


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.[citation needed]

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).


Year Artist Album
1968 Pink Floyd A Saucerful of Secrets
1968 Alexis Korner A New Generation of Blues
1968 The Gods Genesis
1968 Pepe Jaramillo Till There Was You
1968 The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation
1969 Pink Floyd More
1969 The Gods To Samuel a Son
1969 Pink Floyd Ummagumma
1969 Panama Limited Jug Band Panama Limited Jug Band
1969 Humble Pie Town and Country
1969 Various artists You Can All Join In
1970 The Greatest Show on Earth Horizons
1970 Pink Floyd Atom Heart Mother
1970 Quatermass Quatermass
1970 The Pretty Things Parachute
1970 The Greatest Show on Earth The Going's Easy
1970 Syd Barrett The Madcap Laughs
1970 The Nice Five Bridges
1970 Toe Fat Toe Fat
1970 Cochise Cochise
1970 Harvest Records artists Picnic – A Breath of Fresh Air
1970 Panama Limited Indian Summer
1970 Sounds Nice Love at First Sight
1970 Gravy Train Gravy Train
1970 Syd Barrett Barrett
1970 The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation Remains to Be Heard
1970 Argent Ring of Hands
1970 Jackson Heights King Progress
1970 Twink Think Pink
1971 T. Rex Electric Warrior
1971 Toe Fat Toe Fat 2
1971 Trees On the Shore
1971 Marvin, Welch & Farrar Marvin, Welch & Farrar
1971 The 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
1971 Daddy Longlegs Oakdown Farm
1971 The Masters Apprentices Master's Apprentices
1971 John Williams Changes
1971 Pink Floyd Piper at the Gates of Dawn (Italian reissue)
1971 Rory Gallagher Rory Gallagher
1972 Flash Flash
1972 Wishbone Ash Argus
1972 The Nice Autumn '67 – Spring '68
1972 Fumble Fumble
1972 The Hollies Distant Light
1972 Renaissance Prologue
1972 Edgar Broughton Band Inside Out
1972 Audience Lunch
1972 The Pretty Things Freeway Madness
1972 Pink Floyd Obscured by Clouds
1972 Blue Mink A Time of Change
1972 Roger Cook Meanwhile...Back at the World
1972 Glencoe Glencoe
1972 Danta Danta
1972 The Hollies Romany
1972 Olivia Newton-John Olivia
1972 Labi Siffre Crying Laughing Loving Lying
1973 Electric Light Orchestra ELO 2
1973 Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon
1973 Roger Cook Minstrel in Flight
1973 Electric Light Orchestra On the Third Day
1973 Edgar Broughton Band Oora
1973 Al Stewart Past, Present and Future
1973 Argent In Deep
1973 Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy
1973 Audience You Can't Beat 'em
1973 Roy Harper Lifemask
1973 Renaissance Ashes Are Burning
1973 Wishbone Ash Wishbone Four
1973 Wishbone Ash Live Dates
1973 Flash Out of Our Hands
1973 Various artists Music from Free Creek
1973 Humble Pie Thunderbox
1973 Emerson, Lake & Palmer Trilogy
1973 Vinegar Joe Rock 'n Roll Gypsies
1973 Babe Ruth Amar Caballero
1973 Pink Floyd A Nice Pair
1973 Public Foot The Roman Public Foot The Roman
1973 The Shadows Rockin' with Curly Leads
1974 Sharks Jab It in Yore Eye
1974 Uno Uno
1974 Genesis The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
1974 Wishbone Ash There's the Rub
1974 Nazareth Rampant
1974 Renaissance Turn of the Cards
1974 Roy Harper Valentine
1974 Peter Frampton Somethin's Happening
1974 Roy Harper Flashes from the Archives of Oblivion
1974 Bad Company Bad Company
1974 Blue Mink Fruity
1974 Fumble Poetry in Lotion
1974 Syd Barrett Syd Barrett
1974 10cc Sheet Music
1974 The Pretty Things Silk Torpedo
1974 UFO Phenomenon
1974 Cyril Havermans Mind Wave
1974 The Hollies Hollies
1974 Sweet Desolation Boulevard
1975 UFO Force It
1975 The Pretty Things Savage Eye
1975 Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here
1975 Bad Company Straight Shooter
1975 Renaissance Scheherazade and Other Stories
1975 Roy Harper HQ
1975 Edgar Broughton Band A Bunch of 45s
1975 The Greatest Show on Earth The Greatest Show on Earth
1975 10cc The Original Soundtrack
1975 The Pretty Things S.F. Sorrow / Parachute, double reissue (UK version only)
1975 Al 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 Bob Sargeant First Starring Role
1975 Strife Rush
1975 The Winkies The Winkies
1975 Solution Cordon Bleu
1975 Dave Edmunds Subtle as a Flying Mallet
1975 The Shadows Specs Appeal
1976 AC/DC Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (International edition)
1976 Golden Earring To the Hilt
1976 Montrose Jump on It
1976 Kevin Coyne Heartburn
1976 Wings Wings at the Speed of Sound
1976 Al Stewart Year of the Cat
1976 The 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 Jon Anderson Olias of Sunhillow
1976 Nazareth Close Enough for Rock 'n' Roll
1976 UFO No Heavy Petting
1976 Wishbone Ash New England
1976 Genesis Wind & Wuthering
1976 John Miles Stranger in the City
1976 The Hollies Russian Roulette
1977 Wishbone Ash Front Page News
1977 Justin Hayward Songwriter
1977 UFO Lights Out
1977 The Alan Parsons Project I Robot
1977 10cc Deceptive Bends
1977 Roy Harper Bullinamingvase
1977 Brand X Moroccan Roll
1977 Brand X Livestock
1977 Sammy Hagar Sammy Hagar
1977 Al Stewart The Early Years
1977 Sammy Hagar Musical Chairs
1977 Bad Company Burnin' Sky
1977 Pink Floyd Animals
1977 Electric Light Orchestra The Light Shines On
1977 Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel (I) (aka "Car")
1977 Yes Going for the One
1977 Fabulous Poodles Mirror Stars
1977 Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel Face to Face: A Live Recording
1977 Hawkwind Quark, Strangeness and Charm
1977 Space Deliverance
1977 Status Quo Live!
1977 Strawbs Deadlines
1977 The Moody Blues Caught Live + 5
1977 Paul McCartney (as "Percy 'Thrills' Thrillington") Thrillington
1977 Wishbone Ash Classic Ash
1978 Pezband Laughing in the Dark
1978 Be-Bop Deluxe Drastic Plastic
1978 Richard Wright Wet Dream
1978 David Gilmour David Gilmour
1978 Styx Pieces of Eight
1978 Wings Wings Greatest
1978 Todd Rundgren Back to the Bars
1978 XTC Go 2
1978 Robin Trower Caravan to Midnight
1978 Yes Tormato
1978 Genesis …And Then There Were Three…
1978 Wishbone Ash No Smoke Without Fire
1978 Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel (II) (aka "Scratch")
1978 Al Stewart Time Passages
1978 The Alan Parsons Project Pyramid
1978 Black Sabbath Never Say Die!
1978 Renaissance A Song for All Seasons
1978 Synergy Cords
1978 UFO Obsession
1978 10cc Bloody Tourists
1978 The Motors Approved by the Motors (version 2)[11]
1978 John Miles Zaragon
1978 Hot Chocolate Every 1's a Winner
1978 The Walker Brothers Nite Flights
1978 Wings London Town
1978 Gerry Rafferty Gerry Rafferty
1978 Novalis Vielleicht Bist Du Ein Clown?
1979 UFO Strangers in the Night
1979 Scorpions Lovedrive
1979 The Alan Parsons Project Eve
1979 Bad Company Desolation Angels
1979 The Dukes The Dukes
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 Gary Brooker No More Fear of Flying
1979 Steve Hillage Live Herald
1979 Godley & Creme Freeze Frame
1979 U.K. Danger Money
1979 Mick Taylor Mick Taylor
1979 Ashra Correlations
1979 Ralph McTell Slide Away the Screen
1979 Throbbing Gristle 20 Jazz Funk Greats
1979 Judie Tzuke Welcome to the Cruise
1980 The Michael Schenker Group The Michael Schenker Group
1980 The Pretty Things Cross Talk
1980 Brand X Do They Hurt?
1980 Mike Rutherford Smallcreep's Day
1980 10cc Look Hear?
1980 Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel (III) (aka "Melt")
1980 Scorpions Animal Magnetism
1980 UFO No Place to Run
1980 John Wetton Caught in the Crossfire
1980 Wishbone Ash Just Testing
1980 Leo Sayer Living in a Fantasy
1980 The Police De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
1980 Wishbone Ash Live Dates 2
1981 UFO The Wild, the Willing and the Innocent
1981 Pink Floyd A Collection of Great Dance Songs
1981 Rainbow Difficult to Cure
1981 Nick Mason Fictitious Sports
1981 Roger Taylor Fun in Space
1981 Def Leppard High 'n' Dry
1981 Yumi Matsutoya Sakuban Oaisimashō
1981 Herman Rarebell Nip in the Bud
1981 Cozy Powell Tilt
1981 Rick Wakeman 1984
1982 John McLaughlin Music Spoken Here
1982 Paul McCartney Tug of War
1982 Rainbow Straight Between the Eyes
1982 The Alan Parsons Project Eye in the Sky
1982 Bad Company Rough Diamonds
1982 Led Zeppelin Coda
1983 Rainbow Bent Out of Shape

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Helen Donlon interviews Hipgnosis".
  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 –". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  6. ^ "Bug Jack Barron – book 1970".
  7. ^ "Biography". 2011. Archived from the original on 3 April 2012. Retrieved 22 October 2011.
  8. ^ "George Hardie | Alumni and associates | Arts and Humanities". 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. ^ 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.

External linksEdit