Pink Floyd - The Dark Side of the Moon (Album Cover) © Pink Floyd, EMI Harvest, 1973.

20.01.13: making of cover

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Album design: Hipgnosis with George Hardie. Text below © Richard Evans/Chartwell Books.

On its release in 1973, Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon topped the Billboard chart for one week and it was to remain in the chart for an astonishing 741 weeks until 1983, selling in excess of 45 million copies.

EMI Records were always a bit nervous about what Hipgnosis (designer) would come up with for a Pink Floyd cover. They didn't undertand or like obscure cover designs with cows, or covers that didn't even feature the band's name or album title. But Hipgnosis were employed directly by the band, and since that band generated BIG sales for EMI, the record company was obliged to take what was presented to them, whether they liked it or not.

The brief from Pink Floyd was to get away from photographic imagery and come up with a design that was, said keyboard player Rick Wright, "Smarter, neater ... more classy."

The concept of light passing through the prism was based around the idea of Pink Floyd being all about 'sound and light'. The design itelf was taken from an illustration in a science textbook in the Hipgnosis studio. The original illustration was set against a white background but this was changed to black because it looked and felt far cooler ... more classy even.

The light emitting from the prism breaks up into seven colours - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Indigo and violet are very similar tones and since the bands of colour were a purely graphic not a scientific device, indigo was dropped and the prism emits only six colours. The bands of colour continue around onto the inside cover where they become a pulsating heartbeat to echo the sound of heartbeats at the beginning of the album. For the purpose of instore displays, the outer and inner spreads all line up to make a seamless continuation.

Inside the package were two 20" x 30" posters - one of live shots of the band and the other an infra-red photograph of the Great Pyramids of Giza, shot at night by Po and Storm. These pyramid shapes echo the triangular shape of the front-cover prism and reflect themes touched on in the album lyrics. The British album had a blue poster and the US version a green poster. Finally, two postcard-size stickers illustrated by George Hardie completed the striking package.

The original artwork was created by George and consisted of a 'mechanical' artwork. Technically speaking, this means the prism was airbrushed as a black and white graphic and the spectrum colours indicated by trace overlays. The colour-seperator then made the colour plates from these overlays following the specifications on the artwork to produce the colour tints. The black background was produced by printing a solid black and a 50% cyan tint to give a very dense black.

The album was remastered an re-released with a variation to the design for the 20th anniversary edition, and the cover was recreated 'for real' with photographer Tony May shooting a beam of white light passing through a glass prism. The spectrum's seven colours were clearly visible against a paper background.

And then in 2003 for the album's 30th anniversay, Storm reproduced the original design in stained glass and photographed it against a background of trees and buildings.

Source: Richard Evans - The Art of the Album Cover and How to Design Them

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