If you’ve listened to any music at all in the last forty years you’re no doubt familiar with the work of British graphic designer Storm Thorgerson, who passed away last week in England at the age of 69. A prolific designer, whether solo or in conjunction with his design firms Hipnosis and Stormstudios, Thorgerson has been responsible for the design of some 300 album and CD covers for groups as diverse as Led Zeppelin, The Cranberries, Phish, Anthrax, Muse and, of course, Pink Floyd. His most famous work, the cover for Pink Floyd’s 1972 classic Dark Side Of The Moon (above), has transcended art and music to become an iconic, instantly recognizable part of pop culture.
A graduate of London’s Royal College of Art, Thorgerson was a teenage friend of early Pink Floyd members Syd Barrett, Rogers Waters and David Gilmour. His collaboration with that band began in 1967 when he designed the cover for the group’s second album A Saucerful of Secrets, and has since extended over 45 years and 15 album covers. Indeed, his artwork is as synonymous with the Pink Floyd brand as the band’s eponymous sound, to the point where his images complement the music and vice versa. “The artworks that he created for Pink Floyd from 1968 to the present day have been an inseparable part of our work,” said guitarist Gilmour on the band’s website.
A surrealist at heart, Thorgerson was evidently influenced by classic surrealists like Man Ray, Magritte, Picasso, Dalí, Kandinsky and Juan Gris. He worked mostly with photographs, creating harsh collages, weird juxtapositions, infinite mirrors and reality-defying cityscapes, images that often required elaborate constructions, such as the giant inflatable flying pig in Pink Floyd’s Animals, or the bizarre lunarscape of Led Zeppelin’s Houses Of The Holy (below).
To quote Thorgerson, “I like photography because it is a reality medium, unlike drawing, which is unreal. I like to mess with reality … to bend reality. Some of my works beg the question of is it real or not?”
Science fiction author Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy) once called Thorgerson “the best album designer in the world,” but the passing of Storm Thorgerson is a major loss to the worlds of music and art as well as design. Here is but a small sample of the amazingly surrealist work of Storm Thorgerson.