Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Alexander Steinweiss - Album cover art innovator

In 1939, 23 year old Alexander Steinweiss proposed to Columbia to make a change in the presentation and packaging of the 78 RPM record albums and to use original artwork (drawings and paintings) on the covers. This new approach was quite a change if compared to the gold or silver imprint of just the nomenclature in a serif or gothic font on the black, brown or beige heavy books. The new look skyrocketed the sales of an already very popular composition. From that day on the artistic packaging became an important part of the record.

In 1948 Columbia presented the Lp format to the public. A symphony on 4 78 RPM records could now be engraved on a single disc. The new medium did not need the fat, heavy albums any longer. The standard sleeves for 78 RPM records in albums were made of light kraft paper, folded together and glued at the spine and top or bottom, reportedly with a strip folded inside the sleeve which could damage the new vinylite Lp.

Steinweiss, who had studied at Parsons School of Design (New York) and graduated in 1937, was for two years assistant to Joseph Binder, was retained as Art Director at Columbia Records in 1939, and was appointed Advertising Manager for Columbia Records in 1943. From 1943 until the end of the war he had been retained as Exhibits Engineer in the US Navy TADC (Tactical Air Direction Center). In 1945 he had settled as a free lance designer and consultant, painter and ceramist, working for a variety of companies and industries, including Columbia Records. Alexander Steinweiss was now asked to design a standard record sleeve for the new long playing record.

Steinweiss's design of the folded album cover (the fold at the spine) made of kraft (cardboard) became the standard of the industry in the USA. His basic design was soon varied upon but was in essence the same up to this day.

Text courtesy of: The Remington Site - http://www.soundfountain.org/rem/remcovart.html

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