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Sound Design: The Art Of The Album Cover

Denise Burt's album cover designs are as cutting-edge as the music they represent.
Denise Burt
Denise Burt's album cover designs are as cutting-edge as the music they represent.

Calling all design geeks and fans of cool album art! Check out this thing we made.

It tells the story of graphic designer Denise Burt and her album covers. Read about her process, see the art — and hear the music that inspired her.

Shortly after Burt moved to Copenhagen in 2000, she landed a job creating album covers for Denmark's Dacapo Records. Trouble was, she didn't know a thing about the contemporary classical music the label specialized in.

What she did know was that the stuffy old cover designs Dacapo had often relied on needed to be tossed out. So Burt contacted the composers, quizzed them about their music and began to engage with their ideas. Little by little — and not without occasional pushback from bosses and composers alike — she stripped the Dacapo covers of their traditional paintings and text and let her designs speak for the music. Her album art became as cutting-edge — and sometimes as strange — as the music itself.

After nearly 300 album covers for Dacapo and other labels, Burt has published Seeing New Music: Contemporary Classical Music Through the Eyes of a Graphic Designer, a book depicting her favorites. We asked her to explain a few of them for us.

( Click HERE to see and hear Burt's story.)

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tom Huizenga
Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.