Storm Thorgerson is a British designer and artist responsible for more classic album covers than you can possibly imagine one person could create in a lifetime. From Pink Floyd to Audioslave, The Cranberries to Muse, he has produced the most compelling and memorable album artworks of the last 40 years.
An excellent exhibition of his artwork runs in the east-London Idea Generation Gallery from April 2nd to May 2nd, 2010. Part of the exhibition highlights his creative process for a specific case study. Check out the exhibition yourself to see the process in action and in detail. For now, here’s a quick overview:
- The Brief. The designer listens to the music (possibly only demos at this stage), reads the lyrics, and talks to the band. These create a ‘brain soup’, from which ideas can be extracted to form the brief.
- Roughs. Over a number of meetings/days, the designer meets the band again for discussions, in an attempt to pin-down a theme or big idea. This
stage is creative, with word-play, honest thoughts, and scribblings. The best are converted to more complete illustrations (the ‘roughs’).
- Tests. Once a rough is accepted and a budget agreed, a prototype is often created to ensure that the idea works. Depending on the idea, this could involve the creation of scale models from clay or polystyrene. If everything works, the final models are constructed.
- Shoot. A location is researched and booked, possibly for a long-time if outdoors and in uncertain weather. Models are erected and positioned, with help from volunteers if the shoot is big and complex. A wide range of photographs are then taken, under varying light/weather conditions and filters.
- Editing. This could be called ‘selection’, where the best shot from the shoot is chosen. This can take several days, if hundreds of similar shots need to be compared.
- Artwork. Finally, having chosen the perfect shot, any cleaning-up or final computer editing is performed, before handing over the final product.
Written down like this, the process seems so simple. When you consider that some ideas involve 700 or 800 iron beds arranged on a beach with the tide approaching, you begin to appreciate that it might not be so simple after all.