Hipgnosis' Life in 15 Album Covers: Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and More

Upon release of new book 'Vinyl . Album . Cover . Art,' studio co-founder Aubrey "Po" Powell unpacks striking images created for Wings, AC/DC and more

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Pink Floyd, 'The Dark Side of the Moon' (1973)
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G. Hardie © Pink Floyd Music Ltd3/15

Pink Floyd, 'The Dark Side of the Moon' (1973)

The interesting thing about Dark Side of the Moon was that we met the band at Abbey Road, where they were recording, and they had the title. I remember Richard Wright, the keyboard player, turning around to me and saying, "Ugh, do we have to have one of your bloody surreal designs again? Can't we have something that's really stylish, like a singular image, like a chocolate box?" In those days, there were these Black Magic Chocolates, which just had a single gold mark on a black background. The rest of the guys agreed.

Storm and I left Abbey Road rather depressed. We thought about it for a few days. And I was looking through an old French physics book, and there was a photograph of a glass paperweight with sunlight shining in through the window, and it created a rainbow prism. Storm looked at me and said, "I've got it: a prism. It's all about Pink Floyd and their light show." In the early years, they were all about their light shows; nobody knew who they were. Rarely would you see their faces. In fact, between 1972 and 1989, there is not one single piece of film footage of Pink Floyd. They say it wasn't deliberate, but I think it was a conscious effort to stay out of the limelight and let the light show and music speak for itself. So Storm was right. That prism, that rainbow, somehow represented that. And the white line is almost like a singular moment that refracts into wonderful color. 

We drew it up on a piece of paper and brought it to Abbey Road with a whole bunch of other ideas. We put just the one on the floor, and they all went, "That's it. That's the one. That's amazing. That's exactly what we want. That's Pink Floyd." And that was it. I remember Storm being upset about it. He said, "Well, what about all the other ideas?" And one of the other ideas was to do a Silver Surfer character, and they said no. So we employed a good friend of ours, George Hardie, to actually create the illustration. Because we had no idea how to do that. 

It was a moment in time, and Storm, who always had absolutely the wildest ideas realized the potential of it and went, "That's it. It's a triangle." So we got into triangles and the next thing, Storm and I were on a plane to Egypt, taking photos of the pyramids for the posters to go with the album. We had stickers in there, too, that were all about pyramids.

If you look at the original cover artwork, it's unbelievably dull. It's a series of three overlays on tracing paper with a little bit of airbrushing and lots of instructions to the printer. It's very interesting, because it became one of the most iconic album covers of my generation. And of course I'm very proud of the status it gained. 

1973 was the year that broke Hipgnosis. Two months later, we did Houses of the Holy with Led Zeppelin, and we started to make money.

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