The Science of Album Artwork
By Aaron Porter
Once again we delve, semi-deep into the thought process that goes into your favorite (and not so favorite) album artwork. Today we take a look at the incredible and beautiful Jimi Hendrix The Ultimate Experience, an album who’s cover is a reproduction of screen print, in the best way possible. I’ll do my best to decipher why this album works so well and it so classic.
Abstract concepts can be a difficult thing to pin down design wise. Art can sometimes simply be a feeling or the desire to invoke a feeling. There are concepts you can pick out, but the facts can be a little more hazy (see what I did there?), which in this case I suppose would be most appropriate.
Of all of the rules designers follow as guides for good design, the most important is that those rules can (and sometimes should) be broken.
This is quite the contrast from the Blondie album. There are fewer elements, but similarly the elements have come together to create something beautiful. By overlaying the image of Jimi, they created a connection, allowing the background to bleed through the foreground image. That connection makes Jimi feel like a part of the image despite being the top of the hierarchy. Add to that the use of highlight color from the background on Jimi himself, and it makes a solid, cohesive and impressive concept and composition.
Once again in contrast from the Blondie album, it is the absence of color that allows the title to stand out. It’s important but not imposing on the visage that everyone (even the kids these days) knows. Another interesting aspect is the change from the signature of his name to the classic serif font style for the subheader. The Ultimate Experience is emboldened by and made more serious by this classic all caps look. Notice also how the signature of the title highlights and frames Jimi. The J pointing to his right shoulder, the stems of the H and D pointing you to his face, and the i extended beyond the usual size finishing the frame with his left shoulder. This is of course reflected in the stoic appearance of the photo as well. Jimi, despite looking serious, is dressed in his classic style with a whimsical and artistic vibe.
It’s not often you find album covers that completely embody the artist. The Ultimate Experience comes up in spades.