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, The Nice, Paul McCartney & Wings, the Alan Parsons Project, Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Electric Light Orchestra, Rainbow, Styx, 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 approached 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.


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.

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).


1968Pink FloydA Saucerful of Secrets
1968Alexis KornerA New Generation of Blues
1968The GodsGenesis
1968Pepe JaramilloTill There Was You
1968The Aynsley Dunbar RetaliationThe Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation
1969Pink FloydMore
1969The GodsTo Samuel a Son
1969Pink FloydUmmagumma
1969Panama Limited Jug BandPanama Limited Jug Band
1969Humble PieTown and Country
1969Various artistsYou Can All Join In
1970The Greatest Show on EarthHorizons
1970Pink FloydAtom Heart Mother
1970The Pretty ThingsParachute
1970The Greatest Show on EarthThe Going's Easy
1970Syd BarrettThe Madcap Laughs
1970The NiceFive Bridges
1970Toe FatToe Fat
1970Harvest Records artistsPicnic – A Breath of Fresh Air
1970Panama LimitedIndian Summer
1970Sounds NiceLove at First Sight
1970Gravy TrainGravy Train
1970Syd BarrettBarrett
1970The Aynsley Dunbar RetaliationRemains to Be Heard
1970ArgentRing of Hands
1970Jackson HeightsKing Progress
1970TwinkThink Pink
1971T. RexElectric Warrior
1971Toe FatToe Fat 2
1971TreesOn the Shore
1971Marvin, Welch & FarrarMarvin, Welch & Farrar
1971The NiceElegy
1971Pink FloydMeddle
1971Electric Light OrchestraThe Electric Light Orchestra
1971AudienceHouse on the Hill
1971Edgar Broughton BandEdgar Broughton Band
1971Wishbone AshPilgrimage
1971Climax Blues BandTightly Knit
1971Tear GasTear Gas
1971Daddy LonglegsOakdown Farm
1971The Masters ApprenticesMaster's Apprentices
1971John WilliamsChanges
1971Pink FloydPiper at the Gates of Dawn (Italian reissue)
1971Rory GallagherRory Gallagher
1972Wishbone AshArgus
1972The NiceAutumn '67 – Spring '68
1972The HolliesDistant Light
1972Edgar Broughton BandInside Out
1972The Pretty ThingsFreeway Madness
1972Pink FloydObscured by Clouds
1972Emerson, Lake & PalmerTrilogy
1972Blue MinkA Time of Change
1972Roger CookMeanwhile...Back at the World
1972The HolliesRomany
1972Olivia Newton-JohnOlivia
1972Labi SiffreCrying Laughing Loving Lying
1973Electric Light OrchestraELO 2
1973Pink FloydDark Side of the Moon
1973Roger CookMinstrel in Flight
1973Electric Light OrchestraOn the Third Day
1973Edgar Broughton BandOora
1973Al StewartPast, Present and Future
1973ArgentIn Deep
1973Led ZeppelinHouses of the Holy
1973AudienceYou Can't Beat 'em
1973Roy HarperLifemask
1973RenaissanceAshes Are Burning
1973Wishbone AshWishbone Four
1973Wishbone AshLive Dates
1973FlashOut of Our Hands
1973Various artistsMusic from Free Creek
1973Humble PieThunderbox
1973Vinegar JoeRock 'n Roll Gypsies
1973Babe RuthAmar Caballero
1973Pink FloydA Nice Pair
1973Public Foot The RomanPublic Foot The Roman
1973The ShadowsRockin' with Curly Leads
1974SharksJab It in Yore Eye
1974GenesisThe Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
1974Wishbone AshThere's the Rub
1974RenaissanceTurn of the Cards
1974Roy HarperValentine
1974Peter FramptonSomethin's Happening
1974Roy HarperFlashes from the Archives of Oblivion
1974Bad CompanyBad Company
1974Blue MinkFruity
1974FumblePoetry in Lotion
1974Syd BarrettSyd Barrett
197410ccSheet Music
1974The Pretty ThingsSilk Torpedo
1974Cyril HavermansMind Wave
1974The HolliesHollies
1974SweetDesolation Boulevard
1975UFOForce It
1975The Pretty ThingsSavage Eye
1975Pink FloydWish You Were Here
1975Bad CompanyStraight Shooter
1975RenaissanceScheherazade and Other Stories
1975Roy HarperHQ
1975Edgar Broughton BandA Bunch of 45s
1975The Greatest Show on EarthThe Greatest Show on Earth
197510ccThe Original Soundtrack
1975The Pretty ThingsS.F. Sorrow / Parachute, double reissue (UK version only)
1975Al StewartModern Times
1975WingsVenus and Mars
1975Alberto y Lost Trios ParanoiasAlberto y Lost Trios Paranoias
1975CaravanCunning Stunts
1975SassafrasWheelin 'n' Dealin
1975Bob SargeantFirst Starring Role
1975The WinkiesThe Winkies
1975SolutionCordon Bleu
1975Dave EdmundsSubtle as a Flying Mallet
1975The ShadowsSpecs Appeal
1976AC/DCDirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (International edition)
1976Golden EarringTo the Hilt
1976MontroseJump on It
1976Kevin CoyneHeartburn
1976WingsWings at the Speed of Sound
1976Al StewartYear of the Cat
1976The Alan Parsons ProjectTales of Mystery and Imagination
1976Black SabbathTechnical Ecstasy
1976GenesisA Trick of the Tail
197610ccHow Dare You!
1976Led ZeppelinThe Song Remains the Same
1976Led ZeppelinPresence
1976Brand XUnorthodox Behaviour
1976WingsWings over America
1976Jon AndersonOlias of Sunhillow
1976NazarethClose Enough for Rock 'n' Roll
1976UFONo Heavy Petting
1976Wishbone AshNew England
1976GenesisWind & Wuthering
1976John MilesStranger in the City
1976The HolliesRussian Roulette
1977Wishbone AshFront Page News
1977Justin HaywardSongwriter
1977UFOLights Out
1977The Alan Parsons ProjectI Robot
197710ccDeceptive Bends
1977Roy HarperBullinamingvase
1977Brand XMoroccan Roll
1977Brand XLivestock
1977Sammy HagarSammy Hagar
1977Al StewartThe Early Years
1977Sammy HagarMusical Chairs
1977Bad CompanyBurnin' Sky
1977Pink FloydAnimals
1977Electric Light OrchestraThe Light Shines On
1977Peter GabrielPeter Gabriel (I) (aka "Car")
1977YesGoing for the One
1977Fabulous PoodlesMirror Stars
1977Steve Harley & Cockney RebelFace to Face: A Live Recording
1977HawkwindQuark, Strangeness and Charm
1977Status QuoLive!
1977The Moody BluesCaught Live + 5
1977Paul McCartney (as "Percy 'Thrills' Thrillington")Thrillington
1977Wishbone AshClassic Ash
1978PezbandLaughing in the Dark
1978Be-Bop DeluxeDrastic Plastic
1978Richard WrightWet Dream
1978David GilmourDavid Gilmour
1978StyxPieces of Eight
1978WingsWings Greatest
1978Todd RundgrenBack to the Bars
1978XTCGo 2
1978Robin TrowerCaravan to Midnight
1978Genesis…And Then There Were Three…
1978Wishbone AshNo Smoke Without Fire
1978Peter GabrielPeter Gabriel (II) (aka "Scratch")
1978Al StewartTime Passages
1978The Alan Parsons ProjectPyramid
1978Black SabbathNever Say Die!
1978RenaissanceA Song for All Seasons
197810ccBloody Tourists
1978The MotorsApproved by the Motors (version 2)[11]
1978John MilesZaragon
1978Hot ChocolateEvery 1's a Winner
1978The Walker BrothersNite Flights
1978WingsLondon Town
1978Gerry RaffertyGerry Rafferty
1978NovalisVielleicht Bist Du Ein Clown?
1979UFOStrangers in the Night
1979The Alan Parsons ProjectEve
1979Bad CompanyDesolation Angels
1979The DukesThe Dukes
1979Edgar Broughton BandParlez-Vous English (as The Broughtons)
197910ccGreatest Hits 1972–1978
1979Led ZeppelinIn Through the Out Door
1979Brand XProduct
1979Gary BrookerNo More Fear of Flying
1979Steve HillageLive Herald
1979Godley & CremeFreeze Frame
1979U.K.Danger Money
1979Mick TaylorMick Taylor
1979Ralph McTellSlide Away the Screen
1979Throbbing Gristle20 Jazz Funk Greats
1979Judie TzukeWelcome to the Cruise
1980The Michael Schenker GroupThe Michael Schenker Group
1980The Pretty ThingsCross Talk
1980Brand XDo They Hurt?
1980Mike RutherfordSmallcreep's Day
198010ccLook Hear?
1980Peter GabrielPeter Gabriel (III) (aka "Melt")
1980ScorpionsAnimal Magnetism
1980UFONo Place to Run
1980John WettonCaught in the Crossfire
1980Wishbone AshJust Testing
1980Leo SayerLiving in a Fantasy
1980The PoliceDe Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
1980Wishbone AshLive Dates 2
1981UFOThe Wild, the Willing and the Innocent
1981Pink FloydA Collection of Great Dance Songs
1981RainbowDifficult to Cure
1981Nick MasonFictitious Sports
1981Roger TaylorFun in Space
1981Def LeppardHigh 'n' Dry
1981Yumi MatsutoyaSakuban Oaisimashō
1981Herman RarebellNip in the Bud
1981Cozy PowellTilt
1981Rick Wakeman1984
1982John McLaughlinMusic Spoken Here
1982Paul McCartneyTug of War
1982RainbowStraight Between the Eyes
1982The Alan Parsons ProjectEye in the Sky
1982Bad CompanyRough Diamonds
1982Led ZeppelinCoda
1983RainbowBent Out of Shape

See also

  • Category:Album covers by Hipgnosis
  • Category:Albums with cover art by Hipgnosis


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