Storm Thorgerson – remembering the man behind Pink Floyd’s iconic album artwork

Designer Storm Thorgerson next to his cover of the Pink Floyd album 'The Dark Side of the Moon' duri

Potters Bar-born designer Storm Thorgerson created the now iconic cover Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon. - Credit: PA

As the man behind the Dark Side of the Moon album cover, Storm Thorgerson rightly earned the title of the ‘best album designer in the world’, bestowed on him by renowned author Douglas Adams.

Born in Potters Bar in early 1944, Storm attended schools in Suffolk and later the Cambridgeshire High School for Boys, where he forged friendships that would change his life forever.

Also attending the school were two boys, one in the year above and one in the year below, named Roger Waters and Syd Barrett. Thorgerson played rugby with Waters and their mothers were close friends.

In his teenage years he also became friends with David Gilmour, who alongside Waters and Barrett would form a band, Pink Floyd, in 1965.

Dave Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright of Pink Floyd together on stage.

Thorgerson was childhood friends with Floyd members David Gilmour (left) and Roger Waters (second left). - Credit: PA

As for Storm, he studied at the Royal College of Art in London, sharing a flat in South Kensington with his friend Aubrey Powell. The pair would found graphic art group Hipgnosis in 1968 and set about creating artwork for book covers.

It clearly impressed his former school friends as later that year, he was approached to design the cover for Pink Floyd’s second album, A Saucerful of Secrets. It was a decision that would lead to a lifelong, career-altering partnership.

Storm’s cosmic, swirling design for Saucerful fit the band’s style and the era perfectly, and he would follow this with more artwork for Floyd albums.

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In 1969, he designed the covers for More and Ummagumma, followed by 1970’s Atom Heart Mother – Pink Floyd’s first number one album – and then Meddle in 1971 and Obscured by Clouds in 1972, although these were often met with dismay and confusion from record label EMI for not including the band or album name.

By this time, Thorgerson and Powell had established a solid client base in the music world, with their designs including the cover for T-Rex's 1971 album Electric Warrior, but their magnum opus would come in 1973.

With Pink Floyd working on a concept album named The Dark Side of the Moon, they needed another of Hipgnosis’ surreal designs. What they came up with his now the most iconic artwork in music history.

The Dark Side of the Moon

The Dark Side of the Moon cover designed by Thorgerson and Hipgnosis. - Credit: Brett Jordan/Flickr

Inspired by a photograph Storm had found in a book, the design depicts a glass prism dispersing light into colour, and it was a huge hit with the band, who unanimously decided on the art as the album cover.

The album, helped by the striking cover, would go on to sell a reported 44 million copies, making it the sixth best-selling album of all-time and securing a place in music history for The Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd and Thorgerson.

Following 1973, artists regularly came knocking at Hipgnosis’ door as they searched for that special piece of cover art.

They weren’t disappointed either, with Thorgerson and Powell works including the following:

  • ELO 2 – Electric Light Orchestra (1973)
  • Houses of the Holy – Led Zeppelin (1973)
  • Band on the Run – Wings (1973)
  • Sheet Music – 10cc (1974)
  • Technical Ecstasy – Black Sabbath (1976)
  • Year of the Cat – Al Stewart (1976)
  • Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap – AC/DC (1976)
  • The Light Shines On – Electric Light Orchestra (1977)
  • Peter Gabriel I – Peter Gabriel (1977)
  • Bloody Tourists – 10cc (1978)
  • In Through the Out Door – Led Zeppelin (1979)
Year of the Cat album cover

Al Stewart's Year of the Cat, designed by Thorgerson. - Credit: Kenneth Hagemeyer/Flickr

While taking on other clients from the music world, Thorgerson would continue to work with Pink Floyd through the 1970s and beyond, designing further renowned artwork for the band’s albums.

These included the burning businessman on 1975’s Wish You Were Here, the startling image of a pig flying over Battersea Power Station for 1977’s Animals, and the giant heads shot in a field on Floyd’s home turf in Cambridgeshire for 1994’s The Division Bell.

In the 1980s and 90s, Storm produced work for the likes of The Cranberries, Bad Company, Mike Oldfield, The Cult, Def Leppard and Alan Parsons, further adding to his reputation as one of music’s best designers.

Animals Pink Floyd

Thorgerson's design for Pink Floyd's 1977 album Animals. - Credit: Brett Jordan/Flickr

More iconic work came in the 21st century, most notably for Muse’s 2006 album Black Holes and Revelations, but by this time, Storm’s health had sadly begun to deteriorate.

In 2003, Thorgerson suffered a stroke, from which he was partially paralysed, and in later years he battled cancer before passing away April 18, 2013, at the age of 69.

In tribute, Pink Floyd’s Gilmour released a statement describing Storm as ‘a constant force in my life, both at work and in private, a shoulder to cry on, and a great friend’, while the band’s website called him a ‘graphic genius’.

Designer Storm Thorgerson talks to his audience during the opening of his exhibition 'Mind Over Matt

Storm Thorgerson passed away in 2013 after a battle with cancer. - Credit: PA

Although no longer with us, Storm Thorgerson will live on forever through his striking and iconic work.

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