GRAPHICS DEPARTMENT

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 art 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.

A&M RECORDS ART DIRECTORS

Complete credits by person for every album they worked are on the site. Click CREDITS in the menu.

PETER WHORF (1962 -1967)

August 11, 1931 – November 11, 1995

Nominated for six Grammy Awards in the Best Album Cover category including three for A&M, the photography on the Sandpipers Guantanamera album and Herb Alpert’s What Now My Love and Whipped Cream & Other Delights albums.

Whorf’s photography and design for the Whipped Cream album is both his and A&M’s most famous album cover. For Whorf, the design has been outright copied and riffed on since 1965.

 

TOM WILKES (1967 – 1970)

July 30, 1939 – June 28, 2009

Best Recording Package for Tommy by the London Symphony Orchestra

 

ROLAND YOUNG (1970 – 1979)

To understate the man, Roland Young was blessed with both a very quick mind and a quick wit. His gift was pinpointing for you exactly what he wanted you to see and think about.

A&M hired Roland in January 1971 as its director of advertising art and record album design. A&M lured him away from Capitol Record were he was the album cover design head. At A&M, Roland was credited with over 550 projects as the art director (500 projects), designer, creative advisor, illustrator and photographer.

To Roland Young everything is connected. It is up to the designer to create connections to make something new and different, to see what things can be. If an image communicates the message, words are not necessary. All of the elements should add to the communication, those that don’t are decoration.

Roland’s influence extended to being a professor at the Art Center. Among the teaching moments in his class (from the video Roland Young Is God):

     “How do you communicate ice cream? It has all kinds of shit to communicate.”
     “Real seeing is forgetting the name of the object that you’re looking at.”
     “What does that even mean?”
     “When you’re a designer you take in everything. Everything become a part of it.”
     “Go after it like a designer goes after it.”
     “What do you have to say about [the subject]?”

Roland was elected to NARAS Chapter Board

 

CHUCK BEESON

A Beeson album cover tells a story; its elements are tributes to what the artist or the music on the album means.

Always a unique design problem to solve and new techniques to create.

Hired by Tom Wilkes in 1967 to create advertising, posters, film techniques, retail displays…in total 435 projects with more than 10,000 individual pieces.

The refrigerator in the graphics department’s kitchen area stored Kodak film for photo sessions…and was the justification given to accounting for the need to have it. As Chuck put it, “We were creative people.”

Concepts, Titles, Photographs, Typography, Techniques and Compositions….Attracting and Creating Impact At Retail

Beeson holds the distinction of being the art director and/or designer on all of Carole King’s Ode albums (1971-1976). Lou Adler requested him on all of the Ode albums. Among his other most famous covers were: 
     Styx albums (1975-1983, Equinox through Caught In the Act),
     The Police badge singles and wallets, 
     Frampton Comes Alive! picture disc,
      Squeeze’s “6 Songs Crammed Into a 10” Record” die cut (The cover was actually a 12” cover that was literally squeezed by hands to Beeson’s measurements then photographed by Mark Hanauer and completed with a photo of the group and some silk screened elements.),
     The Backlot Greatest Hits series….How do you create a special series? What do you name it? How do you create continuity in the visuals? How do you keep the scale, so the appearance of the covers always have the same elements that relate?

Masters of their techniques, always ready to work and follow the concept—Beeson on successful freelancers

 

JERI HEIDEN (April 1995 – January 1999)

In April 1995, Heiden was hired as the senior vice president of creative services. She had been Warner Brothers vice president of creative services and chief art director.

A&M GRAPHICS DEPARTMENT EMPLOYEES

Jackie Ingle—secretary Photo Dept & Graphics 1967-1993 
Lynn Robb