Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon the album cover dots the windows of record stores around the world. It is also pasted on the dormitory walls of thousands of students and even tattooed on the bodies of fans. The rainbow streak through a clear lens connects us all and is considered one of the most recognizable album covers to date.
But where does this piece of prism come from? How did it become one of the most recognizable album covers, even to non-fans? Let’s find out.
The man behind the dark side of the moon
On their eighth studio album and about to break into the mainstream scene, Pink Floyd recruited Storm Thorgerson, working with Aubrey Powell of design group Hipgnosis to create their album cover.
In an interview with rolling stone, Thorgerson mentions that he was in the studio to listen to part of the album. He never said “nothing, really, about the music”. I just let it pass, really, I guess. It’s my job to reinterpret it, really. So it doesn’t matter what I think, it doesn’t matter what comes out the other side. What came out of the end was a prism, a rainbow and many more album covers for Thorgerson.
Many of Thorgerson’s designs parallel surrealists like Salvador Dalí. He placed objects out of their traditional support giving them a spatial and strange appearance. As for Pink Floyd, however, the band asked for something other than their usual fun imagery. So, although he had never worked on graphic designs before, he got to work. The first idea he had, to take a picture that mimicked Marvel’s Silver Surfer, was rejected by the group.
Thorgerson then decided to focus on Pink Floyd’s light show as inspiration. He adopted the image of a triangle as a symbol of thought and ambition. These themes were prominent in the lyricism of the album. The prism image has become a staple of the Pink Floyd fan base.
“They hadn’t really celebrated their light show,” he told the outlet. “It was one thing. The other thing was the triangle. I think the triangle, which is a symbol of thought and ambition, was a big topic in Roger’s lyrics. So the triangle was very useful – as we know, obviously – was a very useful icon to deploy and integrate into the prism – you know, the prism belonged to the Floyd.
What else did Storm Thorgerson create?
You may recognize other Storm Thorgerson models. He has worked on other Pink Floyd album covers and for artists like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Peter Gabriel, The Cranberries and Muse. From modern indie rock bands like The Wombats to jam bands like Phish and Umphrey’s McGee, Storm Thorgerson has single-handedly crafted ninety-three album covers, not counting his work with the band Hipgnosis.
In the early 1990s, Thorgerson founded StormStudios, a design company for art direction and photography. He died in 2013.