Learn About Being an Album Cover Art Graphic Designer

Graphic designer working late at computer in office
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A cover art designer is a graphic designer who specializes in producing artwork for music-related projects. Often, graphic designers who produce cover art and liner notes also dabble in designing posters, T-shirts and other merchandise for music artists and record labels. The extent of a designer's input into a finished album artwork and liner notes can vary greatly among their music industry clients.

Cover Art Graphic Designer Responsibilities

The person hiring the designer determines the extent of the work that needs to be done on each project. Sometimes, a record label or the musicians themselves have very specific ideas about how they want their album covers and other merchandise to look. They may have photos or designs in mind, and they may have decided on everything from typefaces to color schemes. In this case, the designer is in charge of laying out their client's artistic vision -- typically using graphic design software -- and putting it into the proper format to be delivered for manufacturing.

In other cases, the graphic designer may be asked to create cover art from scratch and work with the client to settle on a final draft.

Employee vs. Freelancer

Many graphic designers work as freelancers and are hired to design cover art on a per-project basis. If you want to work as a freelance graphic designer, you will need to build your portfolio which can mean doing some initial projects for generous discounts or for free until you have a portfolio that lands you the type of paying gigs you want.

If your clients are pleased with your work, you'll likely also find new business through referrals. Not all designers are freelancers, however. Some record labels hire graphic designers as part- or full-time employees to handle cover art creation in-house.

Training Opportunities

Aspiring graphic designers often attend art school to acquire basic design skills, including graphic design software skills.

Two- and four-year colleges offer graphic design programs, as do specialized art schools. Once they start working with clients, graphic designers learn how to work with local print shop professionals to ensure that cover art and merchandise they produce meet their clients' expectations.

Making Money in Album Cover Art

Unlike some jobs in the music industry, a cover art graphic designer's pay isn't linked to album sales, which has its pros and cons. Unless a graphic designer is employed by a record label, she'll charge flat fees to produce cover art and other work for her music-industry clients on a per-project basis. It may take time for an up-and-coming graphic designer to build a clientele. Once established, however, graphic designers set their own fees based on the scope of each project. Established graphic designers in high demand can expect to earn business from record labels and musicians who can afford to pay top dollar for their services.

Learn More About Record Packaging

The right packaging can add a lot to a record or CD, but many labels have to make some hard choices between paying for innovative cover art and paying the bills. Learn more about different packaging options here: