AI and a single twig: Here are Art Vinyl’s best album covers of 2023

The votes are counted and the winner of Best Art Vinyl Award goes to PJ Harvey’s designer, artist Michelle Henning.

11 January 2024

The winners of the “definitive” prize for best album artwork of the year have been announced. Coming in at first place is the designer behind PJ Harvey’s 2023 studio album I Inside the Old Year Dying, Michelle Henning. The judging panel selected Melodie McDaniel as runner-up for her work with Gabriels on Angels & Queens, plus Mat Maitland’s for the cover of Sub Focus’ album, which heroed a type of colourful, soft-bodied sea mollusc.

The PJ Harvey artwork was a curveball amongst cover designs last year; it featured just one lone stick against a white backdrop. Henning originally experimented with showing a full forest, but quickly realised that one stick “would give it the feel of the classic album covers I admire”.

Best Art Vinyl founder Andrew Heeps said “simplicity” and “thoughtfulness” were two attributes which united winners this year. “While the winning album artwork for PJ Harvey and runner up Gabriels focus on the single iconic image with multiple conceptual layers, third place Sub Focus uses an evolving single image via a lenticular design.”


Lil Yachty: Let’s Start Here, AI generated (Copyright © Mowtown/ Quality Control Records)

There are themes that unite each of the 50 shortlisted artworks too. AI crops up repeatedly, in Lil Yachty’s album Let’s Start Here, in the Subfocus album from Mat Maitland and Geese’s album 3D Country, which was made using Dall-E. Another theme was the presence of artworks made by the musicians themselves, with Bar Italia and Yaeji both working on their own cover art, alone and with collaborators.

The shortlisted designs were selected by a panel of artists, designers and music industry experts including Andrew Heeps, founder of Art Vinyl and last year’s winner, the designer behind Black Country New Road’s Ants From Up Here, Simon Monk.

While simplicity was important for Michelle Henning’s winning artwork, the designer explains that the final work took months, from experiments with compositions and different photographs to waiting on the perfect weather conditions. Read our interview with the designer and artist here.


Yaeji: With a Hammer, cover art by Yaeji (Copyright © XL Recordings)


Blur: The Ballad of Darren, creative Direction & design by Undercard Studio – Matt de Jong and Jamie-James Medina (Cover photography copyright © Martin Parr/Magnum Photos)


Gabriels: Angels and Queens Part2, cover photography by Melodie McDaniel (Copyright © Parlophone)


Oneohtrix Point Never: Again, design by @eccopn & @onlineceramics, sculpture by @ringlund_instat (Copyright © Warp)


Sub Focus: Evolve, art direction by Mat Maitland – Big Active Design & Nicolaas Douwma, AI by Claudia Rafael, design by Mat Maitland – Big Active Design (Copyright © EMI Records)


Scrounge: Sugar, Daddy, artwork by Amanda Tooke (Copyright © Fierce Panda Records)


Bar Italia: The Twits, design by Bar Italia and Alison Fielding (Copyright © Matador)


Ryuichi Sakamoto: 12, artwork by Lee Ufan (Copyright © Milan Records/Sony Music)


Geese: 3D Country, artwork DALL·E 2 by Cameron Winter. Retouching by Roope Rainisto (Copyright © Partisan)


Depeche Mode: Memento Mori, artwork by Anton Corbijn (Copyright © Columbia)

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PJ Harvey: I Inside The Old Year Dying, cover art by Michelle Henning (Copyright © Partisan)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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