Album Cover Design – Enhancing a Persona

An album cover often influences the way that the listener will hear the music inside. If the cover is designed effectively, it may even enhance the experience of the music inside. Most importantly, the covers on the outside and the music on the inside should do one another justice. Here are some album covers that I find particularly effective at enhancing the character of the artists.

“Electric Ladyland” – Jimi Hendrix (1968)

Electric Ladyland

“Electric Ladyland” features one of, if not the most, iconic images of Jimi Hendrix. Jimi was known for his incredible, powerful showmanship and his dizzying auditory manipulation both onstage and in-studio.

Somehow, this cover not only complements, but enhances to the legend of Jimi. It personifies his music and persona without any type whatsoever. The photo has a thoroughly mystic and otherworldly haze to it. The yellow and orange are saturated beyond reality, suggesting something surreal. The facial expression is bold, energetic, and possibly sexual, and passionate.

Hats off to whoever was responsible to this mythic cover.

“Acid Rap” – Chance the Rapper (2013)

Acid Rap

Chicago rapper Chance the Rapper (yes, “the Rapper” is part of the name) is one of Hip Hop’s most impactful and enigmatic new voices. Now he is a star, this cover design, paired with his persona, helped to make that possible. The savvy of Chance’s branding is rather impressive considering that he was a 20-year-old releasing a free mixtape.

Although the real man, Chancelor Bennett, seems to be a fairly cool and collected guy in interviews, his “Chance” persona is another matter entirely. Chance is reminiscent of the trickster characters that appear in any number of mythologies. He is unpredictable and endearingly odd. Throughout the album and his adventures in Chicago, Chance goes through elation, mischievous glee, shame, paralyzing fear, and heartfelt joy in family. I didn’t know all that when I first saw the album cover online in 2013, but when I saw it, I knew I had to figure out who this weird guy was.

It is said that we gravitate towards warm colors, and the cover plays into this well. The gorgeous combination of colors  popped on the music site I had been browsing. It was also interesting to see purple and pink tones featured so prominently and unusually on a male artist’s album cover.

The dripping type looks like it was hand-drawn by a druggy, goofball but it also recalls old horror movies. The choice of type is paired with Chance’s surprised or possibly fearful expression, right in the middle of the cover. He is the star of the show, standing there looking just as confused as we are. What are those vibrant paint-like colors all over him? Once I recall the horror movie style of the type and I look at his expression, I wonder if that suggests violence or a drug trip. What is the lighting coming from? Why did this “Chance the Rapper” guy make these design choices?

This guy is good.

Although I’ve seen this cover numerous times in the past two years, this psychedelic album cover still peaks my curiosity.


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