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Obit of the Day: Father of the Album Cover

When Alex Steinweiss came to Columbia Records in 1939 he was given an assignment: design a case to hold the new long playing records. Steinweiss patented (and signed over the rights to) the cardboard sleeves that have held the 78 r.p.m. vinyl discs ever since.

But Steinweiss wasn’t finished. Originally albums were displayed in plain tan, brown or green covers with simple album information. An illustrator, Steinweiss was given free reign to design colorful, eye-catching designs. Once Steinweiss’ designs were added, some albums increased their sales by nearly 1000%.

Known for his bright, broad designs Steinweiss revolutionized the sale and marketing of LPs. He worked for Columbia and Decca until 1972 retiring because he felt his designs were “out of step” with rock ‘n’ roll.

He became a ceramic designer and painter in Sarasota, FL where he lived with his wife of 71 years, Blanche. (She died in 2010.) Mr. Steinweiss was 94.

Random note: Steinweiss’ curlyque writing, seen on the Brahms and Music From Mathematics, is available as a font from veer.com.

(Album covers are copyright Columbia Records, Universal Music, and Alex Steinweiss, courtesies are listed in the photo captions.)

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