The documentary Squaring the Circle: The Story of Hipgnosis, which debuted on Netflix recently, offered a fascinating look into the world of these record artwork mavericks and pioneers, especially for audiophiles who owe their love of music to the 1970s. Using photography and conceptual techniques, Aubrey Powell and Storm Thorgerson, who founded the group in the late 1960s, stretched the limits of traditional graphic album art design to produce deeply colorful, imaginative works of art as well as arresting, thought-provoking record covers.
- Innovate and experiment: One quality that characterized Hipgnosis and their work during the height of the musical renaissance in the 1960s and 1970s was their playful inventiveness, which dared to ask, “What if we did it this way?” They were clearly free to use their creativity in this way, but their product was also very innovative; record companies and musicians would approach them because they knew they weren’t hesitant to try new ideas. What does this teach us? Challenge briefs: To improve your ability to answer client requests, schedule time for creative pursuits. You should explore as many mediums as you can and sketch, paint, take pictures, and compose music.
- Together is better: Hipgnosis emerged from the idealistic exuberance of the teenage counterculture of the 1960s, and it was shaped from the start by a tiny group of creative, educated, and generally well-off elites who organized themselves into a self-described “popular gang.” Thus, it should come as no surprise that Hipgnosis was centered around teamwork. The design studio was shaped in part by the contributions of musicians, photographers, illustrators, artworkers, and other related dreamers and hangers-on. There is merit to the idea of gathering in person, having a group discussion, going to the pub together, and forming a single, committed unit that makes decisions as a unit—even in the age of remote work, online meetings, shared documents, and virtual collaboration.
- Accept the present and try to make the most of it: The significance and visibility of album artwork was the linchpin of Hipgnosis’s heyday as the industry’s preeminent creative company. The studio was unable to keep up with the decline in vinyl sales and the rise in popularity of new technologies like cassettes and portable music throughout the 1980s. However, they left their imprint and used the best, most iconic work they could with the tools at their disposal. It paid off that they weren’t continuously attempting to “second guess” or look too far ahead to predict the upcoming trends. It serves as a helpful reminder that we don’t always have to stay ahead of the curve, regardless of what’s around the corner. Success is arguably found in pushing the envelope, defying conventions, and becoming the best version of yourself on the current curve.