LP Sleeve Designs of the 1950s


The 1950s was the first full decade in which the new long-playing vinyl discs (LPs) were on sale. Being easily scratched or warped, the discs were sold in stiff cardboard sleeves, unlike their predecessors, the 78 rpm discs, which normally came in printed paper bags (and sometimes in cardboard ‘albums’ like photograph albums). The cardboard sleeves gave record companies the opportunity to use graphic design to set up favourable associations for the music on the records and thus attract customers. The typical disc was 12 inches in diameter (some were 10) and the sleeves provided a large image surface for artists and photographers. But sixty years on most of their designs look dull and unadventurous.

The design of 1950s LPs of Irish traditional music, which began to appear in numbers in the second half of the decade, followed the general trend of their time. Being normally issued in small runs, the record sleeves often employ cheap two- or three-colour printing and existing landscape photographs provided by tourist boards. Nevertheless, the sleeve designs convey a strong feeling of period and of a sense of national identity. THe LP covers presented here come from the collections of the Irish Traditional Music Archive.

With thanks to Vincent Duffe, donor of the majority of these recordings to ITMA, and also to donors Ciarán Dalton, Matt Murtagh, John Loesburg, Bernard Croke, Ciaran Weber, Finbar Boyle, Siobhán de hÓir, and Bill Meek.

NC & TH, 1 October 2011

LP Sleeve Designs of the 1950s