Johnson Banks designs “suitably surreal” Pink Floyd album cover for The Later Years
The design agency worked with legendary album cover designer and long-time Pink Floyd collaborator Aubrey Powell, and photographer Rupert Truman, to create the front and back cover of the band’s 18-disc box set, paying homage to the band’s renowned visual legacy.
- Jenny Brewer
- 5 December 2019
Johnson Banks has designed the album cover for Pink Floyd’s new box set, The Later Years, which compiles the band’s best material over the past 30 years on 18 discs. The design pays homage to the band’s renowned visual heritage with what Michael Johnson calls a “suitably surreal” idea showing a figure walking down a road, seemingly leaving a trail of contorted street lights in their wake.
Designed by Michael Johnson, Beth Johnson and Alice Tosey together with legendary album cover designer and long-time Pink Floyd collaborator Aubrey Powell, who founded design studio Hipgnosis, the cover had a lot to live up to, Michael Johnson says. “Floyd have a visual legacy almost as famous as the music. The prism on the cover of Dark Side of the Moon? The burning man handshake? The pig that flew over a power station? A beach covered in beds as far as the eye can see? All classics.”
“Hipgnosis are pretty legendary in the graphics world,” he continues, “so actually working together is quite something. Occasionally I go a bit ‘fanboy’ and just start quizzing Po endlessly about the 70s covers.”
Powell, Floyd’s chief design architect, approached Johnson Banks to pitch ideas for the cover, so the team began its process by looking back at this legacy and coming up with ideas that could sum up a Pink Floyd compilation. Three ideas were presented to the band, and two were chosen for the front and back covers.
For the front, the team briefed the band’s favourite photographer Rupert Truman to capture outstretched roads and wide-open plains in the Californian desert, and production studio Happy Finish to create the contorting lamps and composite the scene. Why this is happening is open to interpretation, says Johnson – whether the lamp posts are crumpling “due to the power of the passing child or the street furniture simply melting into a peaceful sleep”.
“As we experimented with different lamps, roads and skies, the feel of the piece turned from blue skies to something altogether moodier,” Johnson continues, “but with the band’s approval and Powell’s direction we progressed to the final image shown here.”
The back cover is altogether different in concept, depicting a black hole adorned with the final lyrics of each song in the box set. “Set in circles the lyrics appear to flow into and across the event horizon, eventually disappearing into the black hole itself, Johnson describes.” This image is animated by Nikita Iziev for digital applications.
Out on 13 December just in time for Christmas, the set includes albums such as A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell, as well as live recordings, unreleased material, exclusive merchandise, and a newly re-edited 4K version of the film, The Delicate Sound of Thunder from 1987.
Johnson Banks is known primarily for its branding work for the likes of Mozilla and Duolingo, so this marks its first venture into album covers. Pink Floyd has worked with countless creatives over the years, from legendary designer George Hardie (watch him talk about his work with the band here) and more recently, Pentagram.