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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Hipgnosis was a British art design group that specialized in creating cover art for the albums of rock musicians and bands, most notably Pink Floyd, The Pretty Things, UFO, 10cc, Bad Company, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Yes, The Alan Parsons Project, Genesis, ELO and XTC. Hipgnosis consisted primarily of Storm Thorgerson, Aubrey Powell, and later, Peter Christopherson. The group dissolved in 1983, though Thorgerson still works on album designs, and Powell works in video, most notably with The Who.


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.

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 sounding like "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 a 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 #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.

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 artists George Hardie, Colin Elgie, Richard Evans 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.


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. 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.


Year Artist Album
1968 Pink Floyd A Saucerful of Secrets
1968 Alexis Korner A New Generation of Blues
1968 Template:Sortname Genesis
1968 Pepe Jaramillo Till There Was You
1969 Pink Floyd More
1969 Template:Sortname To Samuel a Son
1969 Pink Floyd Ummagumma
1969 Panama Limited Jug Band Panama Limited Jug Band
1970 Template:Sortname Horizons
1970 Pink Floyd Atom Heart Mother
1970 Quatermass Quatermass
1970 Template:Sortname Parachute
1970 Template:Sortname The Going's Easy
1970 Template:Sortname The Madcap Laughs
1970 Template:Sortname 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
1971 T.Rex Electric Warrior
1971 Toe Fat Toe Fat 2
1971 Marvin, Welch & Farrar Marvin, Welch & Farrar
1971 Template:Sortname Elegy
1971 Pink Floyd Meddle
1971 Electric Light Orchestra The Electric Light Orchestra
1971 Audience House on the Hill
1971 Template:Sortname 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
1972 Flash Flash
1972 Wishbone Ash Argus
1972 Template:Sortname Autumn '67 - Spring '68
1972 Fumble Fumble
1972 Renaissance Prologue
1972 Template:Sortname Inside Out
1972 Audience Lunch
1972 Template:Sortname Freeway Madness
1972 Pink Floyd Obscured by Clouds
1972 Blue Mink A Time of Change
1972 Template:Sortname Meanwhile...Back at the World
1972 Glencoe Glencoe
1972 Danta Danta
1973 Electric Light Orchestra ELO 2
1973 Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon
1973 Template:Sortname Minstrel in Flight
1973 Electric Light Orchestra On the Third Day
1973 Template:Sortname Oora
1973 Template:Sortname Past, Present and Future
1973 Argent In Deep
1973 Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy
1973 Audience You Can't Beat 'em
1973 Template:Sortname 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
1974 Sharks Jab It in Yore Eye
1974 Uno Uno
1974 Wishbone Ash There's the Rub
1974 Nazareth Rampant
1974 Renaissance Turn of the Cards
1974 Template:Sortname Valentine
1974 Template:Sortname Somethin's Happening
1974 Template:Sortname Flashes from the Archives of Oblivion
1974 Bad Company Bad Company
1974 Genesis The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
1974 Blue Mink Fruity
1974 Fumble Poetry in Lotion
1974 Template:Sortname Syd Barrett
1974 10cc Sheet Music
1974 Pink Floyd A Nice Pair
1974 Template:Sortname Silk Torpedo
1974 UFO Phenomenon
1975 UFO Force It
1975 Template:Sortname Savage Eye
1975 Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here
1975 Bad Company Straight Shooter
1975 Renaissance Scheherazade and Other Stories
1975 Template:Sortname HQ
1975 Template:Sortname A Bunch of 45s
1975 Template:Sortname The Greatest Show on Earth
1975 10cc The Original Soundtrack
1975 Template:Sortname S.F. Sorrow / Parachute, double reissue (UK version only)
1975 Template:Sortname 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 Template:Sortname First Starring Role
1975 Strife Rush
1975 Template:Sortname The Winkies
1976 AC/DC Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
1976 Golden Earring To the Hilt
1976 Montrose Jump on It
1976 Kevin Coyne Heartburn
1976 Wings Wings at the Speed of Sound
1976 Template:Sortname Year of the Cat
1976 Template:Sortname 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 Nazareth Close Enough for Rock 'n' Roll
1976 UFO No Heavy Petting
1976 Wishbone Ash New England
1977 Wishbone Ash Front Page News
1977 UFO Lights Out
1977 Genesis Wind & Wuthering
1977 Template:Sortname I Robot
1977 10cc Deceptive Bends
1977 Template:Sortname Bullinamingvase
1977 Brand X Moroccan Roll
1977 Template:Sortname Sammy Hagar
1977 Template:Sortname The Early Years
1977 Template:Sortname Musical Chairs
1977 Bad Company Burnin' Sky
1977 Pink Floyd Animals
1977 Electric Light Orchestra The Light Shines On
1977 Template:Sortname Peter Gabriel (I) (aka "Car")
1977 Yes Going for the One
1977 Template:Sortname Face to Face: A Live Recording
1977 Hawkwind Quark, Strangeness and Charm
1977 Status Quo Live!
1977 Strawbs Deadlines
1977 Template:Sortname Caught Live + 5
1978 Pezband Laughing in the Dark
1978 Be-Bop Deluxe Drastic Plastic
1978 Template:Sortname Wet Dream
1978 Template:Sortname David Gilmour
1978 Styx Pieces of Eight
1978 Template:Sortname Back to the Bars
1978 XTC Go 2
1978 Template:Sortname Caravan to Midnight
1978 Yes Tormato
1978 Genesis …And Then There Were Three…
1978 Wishbone Ash No Smoke Without Fire
1978 Template:Sortname Peter Gabriel (II) (aka "Scratch")
1978 Template:Sortname Time Passages
1978 Template:Sortname Pyramid
1978 Black Sabbath Never Say Die!
1978 Renaissance A Song for All Seasons
1978 UFO Obsession
1978 10cc Bloody Tourists
1979 UFO Strangers in the Night
1979 Scorpions Lovedrive
1979 Template:Sortname Eve
1979 Bad Company Desolation Angels
1979 Template:Sortname 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 Template:Sortname No More Fear of Flying
1979 Template:Sortname Live Herald
1979 Godley & Creme Freeze Frame
1979 UK Danger Money
1979 Template:Sortname Mick Taylor
1979 Ashra Correlations
1979 Template:Sortname Slide Away the Screen
1980 Template:Sortname Cross Talk
1980 Brand X Do They Hurt?
1980 10cc Look Hear?
1980 Template:Sortname Peter Gabriel (III) (aka "Melt")
1980 Scorpions Animal Magnetism
1980 UFO No Place to Run
1980 Wishbone Ash Just Testing
1981 UFO The Wild, the Willing and the Innocent
1981 Pink Floyd A Collection of Great Dance Songs
1981 Rainbow Difficult to Cure
1981 Template:Sortname Fictitious Sports
1981 Template:Sortname Fun in Space
1981 Def Leppard High 'n' Dry
1981 Template:Sortname Sakuban oai shimasho
1982 Template:Sortname Tug of War
1982 Rainbow Straight Between the Eyes
1982 Template:Sortname Eye in the Sky
1982 Bad Company Rough Diamonds
1982 Led Zeppelin Coda

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Hipgnosis" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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