Record Cover Design | Alex Steinweiss (1938-1973)

Record Cover Design | Alex Steinweiss (1938-1973)

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After graduation from Parsons School of Design Alex Steinweiss (1938 – 1973) worked for three years for the Austrian poster designer Joseph Binder, whose flat color and simplified human figures were popular at the time and influenced his own work.

In 1938, Steinweiss was the first art director for Columbia Records, where he introduced a wider application of album covers and cover art.

A. Steinweiss had the original patent for what became the the long-playing record packaging standard (he did not develop the inner sleeve, only the outer package), but under his contract with Columbia he had to waive all rights to any inventions made while working there.

He was active in record cover design from 1938 until 1973, when he semi-retired to devote himself to painting. By his own admission, he designed roughly 2500 covers. His career can be divided into roughly five periods:

From 1938 to perhaps 1945, he designed all the covers for Columbia. During this period, he developed the entire graphic “language” of album design.

In 1942, Steinweiss hired Jim Flora, which launched Flora’s 40+ year career as a commercial artist.

From 1945 to roughly 1950, during which he was no longer the sole designer for Columbia. He also began designing for other companies.

Around 1950, Steinweiss did the covers and record label for Remington, and began a more than 20-year association with both Decca and London Records.  Like his earlier periods, most of his early 1950s designs are drawn, for Columbia, RCA, Remington, Decca and London.  This was his third period, when he did drawing, lettering, and layout that was often brilliant but perhaps not as memorable as his late 1940s period.  It was during this period that he collaborated with Margaret Bourke-White on a memorable series of covers for Columbia.

In the mid-1950s, A. Steinweiss added photography to his palette.

Alex Steinweiss at Columbia Records Headquarters, Bridgeport, Connecticut, 1939

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