The cover of the retrospective book For the Love of Vinyl
, originally created for Riff Raff's 1981 album Vinyl Futures
"This is a RECORD COVER. This writing is the DESIGN upon the album cover. The DESIGN is to help SELL the record... A good cover DESIGN is one that attracts more buyers and gives more pleasure. This writing is trying to pull you in much like an eye-catching picture. It is designed to get you to READ IT. This is called luring the VICTIM, and you are the VICTIM. But if you have a free mind you should STOP READING NOW! because all we are attempting to do is to get you to read on. Yet this is a DOUBLE BIND because if you indeed stop you'll be doing what we tell you, and if you read on you'll be doing what we've wanted all along. And the more you read on the more you're falling for this simple device of telling you exactly how a good commercial design works. They're TRICKS and this is the worst TRICK of all since it's describing the TRICK whilst trying to TRICK you, and if you've read this far then you're TRICKED but you wouldn't have known this unless you'd read this far. At least we're telling you directly instead of seducing you with a beautiful or haunting visual that may never tell you. We're letting you know that you ought to buy this record because in essence it's a PRODUCT and PRODUCTS are to be consumed and you are a consumer and this is a good PRODUCT."
—Excerpt from the cover of XTC
's Go 2
In a deserted film studio lot, two businessmen seal a deal by shaking hands. One of the businessmen is on fire
. Neither of them acts as if anything is wrong.
A respectable, middle-aged suburban couple attempt to fake a photo of an an alien spaceship flying above their house, but are caught in the act. The wife is not happy about it.
Sometime during The Thirties
, a wealthy young woman invites her latest boyfriend into her mansion. The suitor looks apprehensive—and he has good reason to be. In the next room, the woman's butler is busy disposing of her previous boyfriend.
Where are these scenes from? Old movies, or some forgotten Genre Anthology
series? Actually, they're all from the work of a studio that designed album covers for some of England's best known bands. (In order, they're the covers of Pink Floyd
's Wish You Were Here
, UFO's ''Phenomenon''
and Audience's ''The House on the Hill''
.) Welcome to the world of Hipgnosis.
During The Sixties
, Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey "Po" Powell were students at the University of Cambridge
, where they befriended future Pink Floyd
members Syd Barrett
, Roger Waters
and David Gilmour. Thorgerson and Powell had already designed and photographed several paperback covers for Penguin Books as "Consciousness Incorporated"; therefore, when the Floyd needed a cover for their second album A Saucerful Of Secrets
, they turned to their friends Storm and Po, who renamed their collaboration "Hipgnosis" after the word was scrawled on the door of their flat by a then-unknown "ingenious dope fiend".note
This was the beginning of a creative partnership with Pink Floyd that continued for decades.Saucerful
turned out so well that Hipgnosis was offered more work by the Floyd's label and booking agent. Throughout The Seventies
, the studio's reputation grew as they were commissioned by some of the biggest names in British music (see the list below); along with artist Roger Dean, they helped create the look of Progressive Rock
and Heavy Metal
. Their work is notable for its use of surrealism
; in those pre-Photoshop days, their enigmatic images had to be created in Real Life
, or through retouching and other trickery, instead of clicking on a mouse. Hipgnosis is also remembered for the stories their vivid images told, often using Science Fiction
tropes. (Speaking of sci-fi, Hipgnosis designed covers for Douglas Adams
' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
] and Norman Spinrad's novel Bug Jack Barron
Storm and Po became so busy that in 1974, they promoted their assistant Peter Christopherson to a full-time third member; Christopherson remained with Hipgnosis even after he joined Throbbing Gristle
. However, by the mid-1970s, times were changing. Prog and metal were out, Punk Rock
was in, and the punks had little use for Hipgnosis' elaborate imagery. Although the studio continued into The Eighties
, by 1983 they'd transformed themslves into a Music Video
company called Greenback Films, which eventually dissolved due to Creative Differences
After Hipgnosis, Storm Thorgerson formed STd (Storm Thorgerson Design), then StormStudios, and continued doing album covers (and eventually CD booklets); although he mostly designed for younger bands like Muse
, Biffy Clyro
, Catherine Wheel
and The Cranberries
, he still worked on most Pink Floyd
-related projects. He died in 2013, and he was active until the very end
. (StormStudios has announced
that, in accordance with Thorgerson's wishes, they will continue on without him.) Aubrey Powell is currently a film director and has co-written two books with Thorgerson. Peter Christopherson continued making music (with Throbbing Gristle
, and later with Psychic TV and Coil), and also directed music videos and TV commercials, until his death in 2010. In 2014, Powell, who owns the Hipgnosis name, revived it for the Pink Floyd album The Endless River
has an extensive archive of images created by Hipgnosis and their friends. Storm Thorgerson
and Aubrey Powell
also have official websites.
Hipgnosis clients with TV Tropes pages:
Storm Thorgerson/STd/StormStudios post-Hipgnosis clients with TV Tropes pages:
Tropes present in Hipgnosis' work:
- Awesome McCoolname: Storm Thorgerson
- Cool Old Guy: What Thorgerson and Powell eventually became.
- Creator Cameo:
- Cue the Flying Pigs: Literally, with the inflatable pig designed for the cover of Pink Floyd's Animals.
- Deadpan Snarker: Storm comes across as one in many of his writings.
- Droste Image: Played With on Pink Floyd's Ummagumma. The pictures show each of the four band members switching positions and occupying the same place, save for the final one, which is the cover of their previous album A Saucerful Of Secrets.
- Drowning Pit: The Strawbs' Deadlines has a phone booth turned into one.
- Eenie, Meenie, Miny Moai: Styx's Pieces of Eight.
- Glowing Eyes of Doom: The innersleeve of Peter Gabriel's first album◊.
- Man on Fire: Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here◊.
- Me's a Crowd: The inner gatefold of Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Trilogy◊ has multiple Emersons, Lakes and Palmers posing in a forest.
- Punny Name: "Hipgnosis" = hypnosis.
- Pyramid Power:
- Sixth Ranger: Peter Christopherson, of course.
- Also, Hipgnosis had a group of regular collaborators, including graphic artist George Hardie, illustrator Colin Elgie, logo designer Geoff Halpin, designer Richard Evans, and photo retoucher Richard Manning.
- Split-Screen Phone Call: 10cc's How Dare You!
- Surrealism: René Magritte was a major influence on Hipgnosis' work.
- Visual Pun: Some Hipgnosis images are literal interpretations of figures of speech. Some examples:
- Pink Floyd's A Nice Pair feature several: "Frog in the throat", "Laughing all the way to the bank", "Fork in the road", etc. (Not to mention the innuendo-laden "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush".)
- Climax Blues Band's Tightly Knit: "Put a sock in it".
- Capability Brown's Voice: "Zip your lip".
- Prototype's self-titled album◊: "A little birdie told me".
- A press ad◊ for Roy Harper's Flashes from the Archives of Oblivion in which the singer praises himself depicts him with a literal swelled head. There's also an illustration of a bull shitting at the bottom of the ad.
- UFO's Force It has a cover photo of a couple making love in a bathroom containing many faucets. "Force It"... "faucet"... groan.
- Wall of Text: The essay that comprises the cover of XTC's Go 2, excerpted above.
- Wipe That Smile Off Your Face: Rael is shown like this on the back cover of Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, as well as this British press advert◊. Hipgnosis had originally suggested the idea for Mott the Hoople, but an executive at their label Columbia Records rejected it.
- Vulgar Humor: The covers for Scorpions' Lovedrive and Animal Magnetism, as well as the picture sleeve for The Cortinas' punk single "Defiant Pose", which is a Vomit Indiscretion Shot.