#ArtOnOurSleeve: our favorite typographic album covers

This year, Monotype offered up 2,200 font families for Secret7 contributors to use in their album designs, leading to some frankly banging font-filled results. To get a type-based take on vinyl, music and design, Monotype's Colin Kersley and Emily Fenech dig through their vinyl collections and local record store bins looking for their favorite typographic album covers.

  1. 1.

    John Mayer — Born & Raised

    This cover is simply exquisite! David Adrian Smith’s perfectly captured the intricate, soulful and warm tones of John Mayer’s music with this incredibly detailed illustrated cover. David’s use of hand-drawn type and imagery lends itself to the nostalgic bluesy sound of this album.

  2. 2.

    Led Zeppelin — Physical Graffiti

    Physical Graffiti is probably Led Zeppelin’s most expressive album for me, and I’ve always loved the vinyl artwork as it just looks and feels how the band sounds. The photography has a dirtiness that oozes from their riffs and then the use of type on the closed blinds lends that bold rhythmical drum-like punch.

  3. 3.

    The Black Keys — Brothers

    The Black Keys’ Brothers is everything I love about old time rock-and-roll. The first album recorded in 30 years at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, the sound is thick, haunted, gritty, and distorted. And Cooper Black represents that sound so well— it’s the ultimate vintage typeface.

  4. 4.

    Rush — Self Titled

    Nerdy air drummers around the world (including Colin) adore Canadian rock band, Rush. I love this cover of their debut self-titled album. That huge hot pink type bursting forward makes me think of that “Yeeeeeaaaaahhhh” at about 20 seconds into the start of the first track, ‘Finding My Way’. It’s a perfect debut cover for this band and their unapologetic fan base.

  5. 5.

    Neil Young — Harvest

    Neil Young— another Canadian! But when I see this cover, I feel Americana folk music. The colors remind me of a 1960s American kitchen. The lettering is absolutely beautiful. And I love the folk-art simplicity of the amber circle as the harvest moon.

  6. 6.

    Rage Against the Machine — Renegades

    Rage Against the Machines’ Renegades cover is a parody of pop-art classic, LOVE by Robert Indiana. It’s a cover album—each of the 4 band members got to pick 3 songs to cover. I like to think this typographic parody is because they each picked songs they “love”.

  7. 7.

    The Bronx — Self Titled

    With The Bronx, you know what you’re getting…loud, aggressive, riotous noise! As with all of their artwork, this album reflects the brutal energy of the band. If you get in the pit at one of their gigs, you can almost guarantee you’re going to be able to replicate the clever use of type in this cover.

  8. 8.

    Grateful Dead — AOXOMOXOA

    I’m a sucker for word play and this album has a lot of that going on. The title is a palindrome (same word backwards and forwards). And the ambigram lettering on the cover reads “Grateful Dead” or “We Ate The Acid” depending on how you look at. I imagine lots of teenagers defending this one to their parents.

  9. 9.

    Various Artists — A Hard Days Night Treatment

    This gold foil on black beauty caught my eye whilst rifling through the vinyl at Spillers Records. A collection of artists from the UK folk scene covered a number of Beatles tracks for this limited edition LP. Ben Johnston has created a beautiful mix of hard typographic lines with flourishes that sweep out towards natural illustrated elements. If you can get your hands on this, I’d recommend you do, as it’s absolutely stunning.

Colin Kersley is a Monotype designer who lives in Cardiff, is caught air drumming a bit too often when listening to music, and has submitted his artwork to Secret 7 this year.

Emily Fenech is a Monotype marketer who lives in Nashville Tennessee, is a lifelong vinyl collector, and has worked with the Secret 7 exhibition the past two years.

Monotype has given access to 2,200 font families for this year’s Secret 7 programme. But, how do you go about picking one of 2,200 font families to use in a sleeve design?

Colin: That's a scary number isn’t it!? The sheer range of typefaces could seem daunting to begin with but I think once you get your head around what kind of design direction you’re going in, it becomes a lot easier to find what you’re after. Personally, once I’ve listened to the music and got a sense of it as well as the band itself, I’d think about the tone of voice that the design needs to convey. From there you might already have a tried and tested typeface in mind or you can start filtering by keywords or style to find an appropriate typeface.

If the text was supporting imagery, you’d need to make a decision whether you want to compliment or contrast that with your type choice. Once you’ve got a handful of typefaces, you’ll want to start assessing their character in a more detail - focusing on the available weights, the shapes within the letterforms, or even looking at a specific glyph. At that point, I’d say it’s all about experimentation and play!

Monotype Library Subscription

Designers have so much choice when it comes to type. So experimentation is really important. Fonts are expensive. If you are a freelancer or a small shop without a big budget, purchasing a typeface with several weights can be a big commitment. That’s why Monotype opened up it’s library to Secret 7 designers. We wanted designers to have access to all our typefaces, and freedom to play with every typeface in our library. That’s also why Monotype introduced a library subscription service— easier access to type and more experimentation.