’80s Album Cover Trends

New Order Movement, The Motels Shock

'80s album covers by New Order and The Motels

Oh how we love ’80s cover art! In honor of Album Cover Week, Mirror80 takes a look at three trends that put their stamp on the decade’s canvas. With examples from the cover art for both albums and hit singles of the 1980s, we give you three visual styles that continue to hold up over time. I’d frame these and hang them on my wall!..

Glamour Girls

It was the ’80s, people! Big hair, even bigger jewelry, and plenty of bold lipstick combined to create the look of the high-fashion woman, a gal that graced many an album cover in all of her sophisticated glory. Take the covers below. Perhaps the artwork for the Motels’ 1982 album All Four One (below, left) was foreshadowing Robert Palmer’s later videos… We think it’s “simply irresistible!” And speaking of Robert Palmer, many compared his slick-haired video mavens to the paintings of artist Patrick Nagel. And what would Duran Duran’s 1982 Rio album be without Nagel’s cover art (below, bottom right)? Not all sophisticated ladies of the ’80s were cartoons. The cover for The Cars’ 1978 self-titled LP (below, top right) proves that late ’70s/early ’80s beauties could be playful as well as elegant:

Album covers for The Motels, The Cars, and Duran Duran

Album covers for The Motels, The Cars, and Duran Duran

Simple Geometry

Some 1980s album covers went with a “less is more” approach, celebrating the stark modernity of brightly-colored shapes against a basic background. Take the iconic cover for New Order’s 1983 hit “Blue Monday” (below, left), designed by English art director and graphic designer Peter Saville. Does it get any better than this?! The color palette for Yes’ 1983 album 90125 (below, top right) is undeniably appealing, as is the logo designed by Garry Mouat. Finally, we have Foreigner’s cover design for the 1984 album Agent Provocateur (below, bottom right), which shows that turning an “F” on its side and detailing its edges with primary colors can be the answer to a graphic design challenge:

Cover art for releases by the bands New Order, Yes, and Foreigner

Cover art for releases by the bands New Order, Yes, and Foreigner

Cartoon Influence

An album cover is a work of art, and some ’80s musical acts took this concept to another level by spotlighting artwork of a cartoon-y nature. In fact, the more detail packed into the space, the better, as shown in the artwork for Men at Work’s 1983 album Cargo (below, left). The cover for Prince’s 1999 (below, top right) spotlighted layered detail on both letter and number. Finally, pop artist James Rizzi designed the cover of the Tom Tom Club’s 1981 self-titled LP (below, bottom right). His outlined, yet free-flowing style was further highlighted in the band’s music video for “Genius of Love.”

'80s album covers for Men at Work, Prince, and the Tom Tom Club

'80s album covers for Men at Work, Prince, and the Tom Tom Club

Join us tomorrow as we match up 1980s album covers from the same design mold…


  1. Bianca says

    Hi I am completing a project for school at the moment on different album cover trends from the 60’s to now, and this helped me heaps so thank you! I was just also wondering if you made any other posts from other era’s or know any place where I could find similar information. thanks again.

    • says

      Hi Bianca! My apologies for the late reply! You’re probably finished with the school project by this point. I’m so glad that this post was helpful. I haven’t created any posts on album covers from decades outside of the ’80s. I hope you found the info you were looking for. Thanks for your comment, and thanks for reading!

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