Ever since Alex Steinweiss designed album covers for Columbia Records in the 1940’s, many famous artists and designers have also designed iconic and stylish album cover art. From famed cartoonist Robert Crumb, who designed Janis Joplin’s “Cheap Thrills” album cover to Andy Warhol’s contribution to the Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers” LP, many famous artists have put their talents to work and put an image to the music created by rock and roll bands and artists.
One such artist, Roger Dean, is world-famous for his legendary album cover designs and concepts. He is best known for his partnership with the progressive rock band Yes and his album covers are peerless.
Dean was born in Ashford, Kent, England in 1944 and spent much of his childhood moving around the world (he has lived in Cyprus, Greece and Hong Kong) with his British army father. The family returned to England in 1957 where Dean enrolled in the Canterbury School of Art and earned a National Diploma of Design. In 1968, he graduated from the Royal College of Art. Dean preferred to distinguish between design and the reworking of an existing model or design or inventing and the making of something new, a concept that would help him later on with his work.
In fact, one of his inventions was the “sea urchin chair,” a foam chair which, though appearing to be spherical, would conform to the person sitting in it; who could obtain a seated position of varying angles. The uniquely designed chair was featured in the film “A Clockwork Orange” and Dean was commissioned to design a “landscape” of similar seating for Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club.
It was around this time that Dean would embark on the now famous art design work that he is best known for, designing and painting unique album covers for various rock bands. His first album cover was for a band called “Gun.” In 1971, Dean designed the cover for the first Osibisa LP (an African/Caribbean band) and this cover attracted a lot of attention and interest in his work. In fact, later that year, Dean formed the partnership that he is most recognized for, the album cover art for the band Yes (and along with his brother Martyn, designed the stage set for the band as well).
As Yes guitarist Steve Howe explains, “There is a pretty tight bond between our sound and Roger’s art.” Dean’s art is characterized by dreamy, space-like landscapes, floating islands and fantasy habitats. He primarily works with watercolors, but many of his paintings make brilliant use of other artistic media such as gouache, ink, enamel, crayon and collage. Dean is also a highly respected calligrapher, designing logos and titles to compliment his paintings.
Besides his impeccable and incomparable album covers for Yes, he has also designed album covers for the rock bands, Uriah Heep, Asia, Atomic Rooster and Budgie and artists Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman.
In 1985, Dean landed a gig with Psygnosis and he has designed the artwork for several videos games, including Tetris Worlds and the redesign of the Tetris logo. In recent years, he has focused on his architectural ideas and designs. As an architectural designer, he has designed homes and sustaining villages and even designed all the aspects of his own home, from the construction techniques that were implemented to his own emotional comfort and security. The design is based on his “Home For Life” concept, that a house should be artistically appeasing, irenic and environmentally kind; yet cheap and quick to construct.
Rest assured that whatever project Roger Dean may be working on, it will always be innovative, inspiring, and incomparable and tackled with an obvious zest. His stylish, conceptual album cover art will live in infamy for years to come as he continues to influence new artists to this day.