The Shape of Sound

20 Designers, 100 Record Covers

May 2  — July 18, 2019

On View September 20th, 2019–January 10th, 2020 at KEXP


Josef Albers, Persuasive Percussion, Command Records 1959 (190125‑007)

Ronald Clyne, Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 43, Columbia Records c. 1952 (190212‑007)

Ronald Clyne, A Unique Stereophonic Demonstration Disc (Enesco: Rumanian Rhapsodies / Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsodies), Vanguard Stereolab 1961 (190212‑01

Will Dressler, Perspectives in Percussion, Volume 1, Somerset 1961 (190212‑018)

Rudolph de Harak, Testing Testing Testing: A Comprehensive Tool for Testing Equipment, Westminster Recording Company c. 1960 (190213‑010)

Erik Nitsche, Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1, Decca Records 1952 (190221‑002)

Sam Suliman, Sizzling Strings, Castanets & Percussion, Directional Sound c. 1960 (190221‑019)

The 1950s were a pivotal time for record art. The music industry was just beginning to establish rules for how the LP format could (and should) be merchandised, which left quite a bit of room for experimentation with cover graphics. Most were designed to appeal to Middle America, with a simple masthead across the top detailing the artist and title and, more often than not, a photograph of that artist to fill the space. But in some places — mainly Jazz releases, but also some Classical titles — a Modernist approach was able to seep into the lexicon.

A few record publishers were willing to give their designers the leeway to emote the music through sleeve graphics. In the era of hard-edge painting, Abstract Expressionism, and other Modernist art movements, non-representational abstraction provided an alternate way for designers of the period to communicate the feeling of the music, and use shape to describe sound.

The Shape of Sound is a survey of these types of works from my personal collection, gathered over the past couple decades. It is by no means a comprehensive study of abstract record sleeves, but simply provides a window of 100 examples through which we can view some of the solutions that 20 designers came up with to solve increasingly complex problems, resolving formal Modernist approaches with a need to connect with the consumer.

– Scott Lindberg



Listen to playlist here




  • A.F. Arnold

  • Alvin Lustig

  • Barbara Jean Brown (Peters)

  • Brownjohn, Chermayeff & Geismar

  • Charles Murphy

  • Emmett McBain

  • Erik Nitsche

  • Frank Parisi

  • George Giusti

  • Gerry Olin

  • Jon Henry

  • Josef Albers

  • M. Peter Piening

  • Richard Van Tieghem

  • Ronald Clyne

  • Rudolph de Harak

  • Sam Suliman

  • S. Neil Fujita

  • Saul Bass

  • Will Dressler


Scott Lindberg

Scott Lindberg is a freelance graphic designer and design historian based in Edmonds, WA. From 2011 to 2018 he ran New Documents, a shop specializing in important 20th century graphic design objects. During this time he partnered with seminal American designer and illustrator Seymour Chwast to sell pieces from the Push Pin Group archives. Scott’s personal design collection has been featured in magazines, books and exhibitions, both nationally and worldwide.


Exhibition Opening Party at NBSP

May 2, 2019 — 5–9pm

Join us for the opening of The Shape of Sound exhibition during First Thursday Art Walk.

First Thursday Opening at NBSP

June 6, 2019 — 5–9pm

Join us for Pioneer Square’s First Thursday Art Walk.

Opening at KEXP

September 20, 2019 — 7am–6pm

The Shape of Sound: 20 Designers, 100 Record Covers exhibit is traveling to KEXP’s Gathering Space.

More Info