When talking about album cover designs it is often said that there is nothing more trivial than the use of a portrait photo of the musician on the front side. Meanwhile, almost all Reid Miles’ covers include a jazzman’s photo and yet his designs are among ones of the best in the world.
Reid Miles (1927-1993) is an ingenious graphic designer who worked in the 50s and 60s for Blue Note record company and created there over 500 album designs, which today are splendid examples for subsequent generations of graphic designers. Why are they so good?
First of all, because of the masterful compositions, typographic freedom and great sense of color. Reid Miles precisely sets the order of noticing design elements by the viewer. Each cover has a dominant – the main point that grabs attention. Sometimes it’s photography, sometimes typography. The letters are usually gathered in one place. The designer uses different fonts but he does so in a masterly way, he clearly feels the rhythm. Rhythm is present both in music and art, therefore Miles’ projects make use of replication and multiplication thanks to which the covers become very ‘musical’. He also skillfully uses scale to his advantage, often juxtaposing small elements with big ones, large letters versus small photography, or the other way round. Colors in these covers are scarce, he mostly uses monochromatic schemes. Photographs are set in greens, reds or, in accordance with the company’s name – blues. The musicians seem to be covered with scenic light. Immersing the jazzmen’s figures in black adds nobility and ambience to the covers. Reid Miles often chooses asymmetric compositions, which makes them more dynamic. It is impossible to get bored when looking at his projects. Despite the large number of covers, each one is different and characteristic. You won’t find routine in his designs, there is no schematic method there. In turn, there is professionalism, freshness, artistic expression, freedom, improvisation, individualism and the so-called good taste – everything we can find in high class jazz music.
text by Anna Klos
translation by Karolina Klos