How Nicholas Thirkell Changed The Art Of The Written Word

Graphic artist Nicholas Thirkell revolutionized everything from book jackets to album covers with his quirky and thought-provoking artwork.

Art and Music Business Lifestyle

Unless you are well-versed in the publishing world, Nicholas Thirkell isn’t necessarily a name you would recognize. No, he wasn’t an author, editor, or even a writer. In fact, he was an artist—an artist responsible for numerous book jackets newspaper layouts, and CD covers. He recently passed away at the age of 79; however, he did leave behind a colorful and dynamic legacy through his artwork.

Remembering Nicholas Thirkell: “he took ideas to their ultimate expression”  - Design Week

Thirkell is best known for revolutionizing book covers into the artwork we see today. In the beginning, he utilized hardcover jackets to ask “questions which can only be answered by reading the books.” One of his most famous covers was for The Smaller Sky, which resembled a train ticket to portray how the story’s main character works at Paddington Station. Because of his work as art director at Macmillan Publishers, book covers were not only informational but actual works of art.

He would go on to create Nicholas Thirkell Associates, a small group of young artists who would design countless graphics throughout the years. But these artists wouldn’t just stick to book covers; instead, they took over the art world in pop culture by designing album covers for famous bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin, and Paul McCartney. One of Thirkell’s most iconic projects was the legendary Pink Floyd album, Dark Side of the Moon. He would also go on to refine the layout of The Independent, a UK newspaper.

To read about another memorable passing in the publishing world, click here.