The Best Album Covers and What We Can Learn From Them

Best Music Album Covers

While the language of “don’t judge a book by its cover” is certainly relevant to musicians, let’s be honest: having a great album cover can’t hurt. Whether you’re new to the music scene or crafting a brilliant track record, the cover is very important. Think of it as a spokesperson for the music your band worked so hard to create, and the mood the music embodies with each chord. Here, we’ll dive into the best album covers learning from past hits, exploring best practices, and helping you take the next steps in creating an album cover design.

The World’s Most Iconic Album Covers (And What They Teach Us)

  1. “Rumors” by Fleetwood Mac
  2. “Abbey Road” by The Beatles
  3. “Nevermind” by Nirvana
  4. “The Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd
  5. “The White Album” by The Beatles
  6. “Enema of the State” by Blink 182
  7. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”
  8. “Unknown Pleasures” by Joy Division
  9. “The Velvet Underground & Nico” by The Velvet Underground
  10. “Aladdin Sane” by David Bowie
Rumors album cover
Fleetwood Mac Album Rumors Cover via Criteria Studios, Record Plant Studios
Abbey Road album cover

Cover of The Beatles’ Abbey Road via EMI, Olympic and Trident Studios

Never mind the album cover

Nirvana’s Nevermind album cover via Sound city studios

Album cover The Dark Side of the Moon

Pink Floyd’s The Pink Side of the Moon album cover via Abbey Road Studios

White album cover

The Beatles White Album Cover via EMI Studios and Trident Studios

Enema of the State album cover.

Blink 182’s Enema of the State album cover via MCA Records

Thriller album cover

Michael Jackson Thriller album cover via Westlake Recording Studios

Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures album cover

Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album cover via Strawberry Studios

The Velvet Underground & Nico album cover

The Velvet Underground & Nico album cover via Scepter Records

David Bowie Aladdin Sane Cover
David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane album cover via Trident Studios

Looking back at iconic album covers, what they all seem to have in common is instant recognition. The cover doesn’t have to be game-changing (the songs will take care of that part), but it does have to be memorable. Look at the Fleetwood Mac “Rumors” and the Michael Jackson “Thriller”. Both covers support a simple aesthetic and feature quintessential images of the artists. They are not controversial nor are they particularly conversation worthy, yet they have stood their ground as some of the best known album covers ever.

In reality

Some of the more celebrated album covers don’t feature the band at all. And in the case of “The Dark Side of the Moon ”by Pink Floyd, there aren’t even words – just the artwork that ended up being so iconic that it became a timeless, ultra-recognizable logo for the band. Nirvana’s “Nevermind” and Blink 182’s “Enema of the State” also omit images of the band and have become widely recognizable not only as album covers, but as conversation pieces as well.

For Nirvana in particular, his music was a niche. However, regardless of a listener’s interest in grunge, they can quickly identify the baby swimming toward the dollar bill. Sure, it’s weird, but it’s memorable, and it’s worth talking about.

Then there are the classics, like The Beatles’ “Abbey Road,” possibly the most famous and most imitated album cover. While not quite “The White Album”, the cover of “Abbey Road” is also quite simple. Sometimes simple is really good. In the case of The Beatles, a minimalist album cover allows the music to speak for itself.

Inspiration to create the best album covers

We love the classics. Who doesn’t? And while many current album covers use principles similar to proven favorites, there are new concepts to consider as well. Think fresh shapes, ultra-saturated colors, and contemporary themes. Consider who you are as a musician and how you can best express yourself in a whole new way on your album cover. Here are some routes to explore:

Geometric album covers

Think “The Dark Side of the Moon.” There were no people on the cover, and in reality, most were just black. But the parts that we’re black were geometric, and this concept is a solid approach to a modern album cover. You don’t need crowds of people and tons of text to help tell who you are, and there is something very intriguing about geometric designs. They lure the listener in.

Sunflares album cover

Album cover design Sunflares by MachinaDesign

Guy Rickard album cover

Guy Rickard album cover design by Floating Baron

Simply Three album cover

Simply Three album cover design by __Ossobuko__

Mellemspil album cover

Album cover design Mellemspil by Shortfuse

Bold, colorful album covers

Your album cover is not just an album cover. Is a T-shirt. It’s a poster. It’s everywhere and everything, really. When done successfully, a vibrant album cover is a winner. Do you remember Santana’s “supernatural”? Yes, just like everyone else. Go bold

Never Let You Down album cover
Cover design for the album Never Let You Down by Shwin
Supernatural album cover

Santana’s Supernatural album cover via Fantasy studios

Foes album cover

Foes album cover design by JETARTS

Gotta Go album covers

Gotta Go album cover design by litlast

U Been album covers

How U Been album cover design by LazebraArt

Surreal, futuristic album covers

The music industry is a place where it’s totally okay when you don’t fit 100%. Look at the success of Tori Amos: Decades later, her music still can’t fit into a specific genre. If your music is more than one thing, or one thing that defies categorization, your cover should be too. Consider a route that incorporates your non-traditional style and serves as the perfect companion for your music. An artistic, hipster album cover shows potential listeners that you’re a bit ‘out there’, but in the best possible way.

Covers, One Light album
One Light album cover design by __Ossobuko__
Covers, So It Goes album

So It Goes album cover design by Shwin

Covers, lithium album

Lithium album cover design by Minima Studio

Say what it says album covers

Say What You Say album cover design by saska

covers, Choirgirl hotel album.

Tori Amos’ From the Choirgirl Hotel album via Martian Engineering

Turn up the volume on your next album cover

You’ve caught up on the best album covers and seen inspiration from some of our favorite modern designers. Now is the time to do it and get an amazing album cover that deserves platinum status. Our designers will help you make the ideal arrangement!

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