Alex Steinweiss (1917–2011) invented the album cover as we know it. In 1939, this 23 year old graphic designer revolutionized the music industry.
As Art Director at Columbia Records, Steinweiss had an idea: Why not replace the standard plain brown wrapper with an eye-catching illustration? The company took a chance, and within months its record sales increased by over 800 per cent. Steinweiss created the ‘album package.’
In his four decade career, Steinweiss created album covers for musical luminaries such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Igor Stravinisky, Benny Goodman and Bing Crosby. Also he made thousands of original artworks for classical, jazz, and popular record covers for Columbia, Decca, London, and Everest; as well as logos, labels, advertising material… His covers are still regarded as icons.
If you want to learn more about the inventor of the modern album cover, you must read: Alex Steinweiss. The Inventor of the Modern Album Cover (Taschen). The book includes Steiweiss’ personal recollections and ephemera from an epic career, as well as insightful essays by three-time Grammy Award-winning art director/designer Kevin Reagan and graphic design historian Steven Heller.