Graphics in the record industry was always evolving. It moved from black and white to color, from paper album sleeves to print board, from completely in-house design to include use of freelance contractors; hand-drawn to computer aided design…and perhaps most importantly from the sales department controlling the graphics to the art directors. Even the days of having the artist’s name be prominent gave way. Gone are the days when the art director assigned a designer without knowing the artists, the music, or even their ideas about their image and what they wanted on their album cover.

Art directors and designers met with artists, managers, photographers and others who had a controlling interest in what the cover should be. The art directors entered meetings with ideas and also a willingness to listen and craft an idea that everyone could live with, if not love.

What remained the same was the identity on the cover. A&M had its own styles over the years but if you look at something as basic as the black and white publicity photos—just a photo with the artist name at the bottom—you can spot the A&M photo from any other record company. This was the realm of the art director: create a cohesiveness while maintaining the individuality of each artist and project.

The graphics department was always a small in-house staff supplemented by a network of freelance specialists to support the art director’s vision of the final product. Freelancers included stylists, photographers, photo retouchers, painters, airbrush illustrators, typographers, printmakers, silk screeners, ProPress film separators, model makers and more. Finally there was the direction and coordination with the printing houses to make sure the kind of ink, color, registration are correct or the die cut and lamination are as desired.

The graphics department appeared to be a relaxed, creative place but it had the pressure of being the last department to work on a recording before it went into production. Deadlines ruled the day making it creativity on demand. It was not simply the album cover, there were gatefold covers, special liners, posters, advertising, film techniques, merchandise and other associated pieces that need to be designed and created to support promotion and sales. The department worked closely with creative services, sales and marketing departments.



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Chuck BeesonJeri Heiden
Jackie Ingle
Junie Osaka
Tom Wilkes
Peter Whorf
Roland Young