Why does album artwork exist in the digital age?

We talk to album artists about their work and whether or not it's still appreciated.

album artwork

Album artwork created by We Three Club

At Creative Bloq, we're huge fans of album artwork – thanks to our album art of the week series, we were able to sift through a wide range of inspirational artwork. From photography to illustration, album artwork is the ultimate creative collaboration between two mediums; it's the visual representation of music and ultimately, something that should be cherished.

As music becomes more digitalised than ever before, album art is often left to a tiny square on a screen – the details lost to our quick-scrolling attitudes and five-second attention spans. Album artwork used to be anticipated with as much enthusiasm as the album itself, with artists such as Peter Saville, Kirk Weddle and Celia Philo's designs still adorning the highstreet t-shirts of today.

album artwork

Graham Pilling created the artwork for Public Service Broadcasting

These days you'd be hard pressed to find the details of the photographer, illustrator, graphic designer or art director of a recent release without some serious googling. So has our appreciation of album artwork dwindled or do we simply digest it in a different way?

"I think it's similar to film – the majority of people aren't really interested in the design and production side of things but there are plenty of people who love that angle, so you could never say it's not appreciated. Appreciation and popularity are not mutually exclusive," offers Public Service Broadcasting artist Graham Pilling.

album artwork

Kieran Gabriel has worked on a range of albums including this one for Tyrannosaurus Dead

"It's the first thing that the listener is presented with and is definitely vital in representing what's within," adds illustrator Kieran Gabriel. "I'm not necessarily the kind to seek credit when I've done work, that's not really why I do it, but I can't help but feel a little peeved when the artwork is almost presented on the side line, as though it's an afterthought.

"In the days of quick turn around and surprise albums, it's easy for the album artwork to be forgotten. I do feel the days of the iconic album cover have gone." Interestingly, 1975 album artist David Drake argues that album artwork is only there to serve it's purpose – not necessarily for the artist to feel appreciated.

album artwork

The 1975 album artwork was created by David Drake

"It's not about me," he begins. "My work is there to act as a compliment to their album, so it's only right to sit in the background – if somebody wants to find out who made the artwork, all they have to do is look in the sleeve credits."

"It depends on who you look to for appreciation," he continues. "From a major label A&R? Probably not the sort of appreciation you mean – but they do really appreciate somebody who can deliver to brief and work hard to get a result."

Next page: is digital music killing album art?