what is the best album cover of all time?

What Is The Best Album Cover Of All Time?

what is the best album cover of all time?

What makes a classic album cover?

Inspired by the new Blackwing pencil, we got to thinking about vinyl and all our old albums languishing in the loft. How fondly we remembered the crackle of the stylus, the paper sleeves and those rectangular black cleaning things. But most of all we remembered the covers. And so we wondered what was the best album cover of all time?

When CDs came along the artwork seemed a lot less important and now with Spotify I hardly notice it at all. But once they were an integral part of the experience, something to be studied and cherished, almost as much as the music. But which were the best examples? We discussed this in the office and I looked through my dusty boxes for inspiration but it turns out to be a lot harder than I thought to find the best three.

What makes a classic cover? Is Abbey Road a classic cover because it is a great piece of design? Or is it great because it has become a cultural icon over time? Much copied and mimicked? The more I looked at covers the more I couldn’t decide what made a good cover. Dark Side of the Moon seems to appear in most lists of great covers but to my mind it is rather boring though again, a cultural icon now. I preferred Pink Floyd’s cover for Animals with the large inflatable pig flown over Battersea Power Station. Apart from it being a great photo, the pig apparently escaped and caused havoc at Heathrow, resulting in cancelled flights and eventually upsetting a Kent farmer after it landed in his field and frightened his cows.

Which brings me to the conclusion that what I like is a good story and so my choice of the best albums covers is based on that. Feel free to disagree and if you have your alternative best three please comment below.

My best three (or four) record covers of all time

Blue Monday – New Order

The design on this 12” single was made to resemble a 5¼” floppy disc, cutting-edge technology for 1983, and the cover die-cut to resemble the sleeves they were stored in. There was no text but a colour code which, if decoded, stated the title and band and other info.

The story goes that manager Tony Wilson, having been told it would lose money for each sale due to its high cost to produce, went ahead anyway as he liked it and thought it wouldn’t sell anyway. It did of course go on to be the best-selling 12” ever ensuring Factory Records made no money from it and, some time later, went bust. Not sure how accurate it really is but it is a story we love and often quote here in the office….

New Order Blue Monday

Metal Box - PiL

Ever the innovators, the original design for this album cover was to be made from sandpaper so as to damage any other albums placed on the shelf next to it, your own included – shades of Banksy and his picture shredding surely? In the end they settled on a cannister which contained three 45rpm discs, deliberately tricky to remove, easy to scratch in the process and needing regular turning and changing to get through all the tracks. Apparently it rolled off the record store shelves too. Completely brilliant.

PiL Public Image Limited Metal Box

God Save the Queen/Never Mind the Bollocks – Sex Pistols

The 7” single cover looks like a subversive postage stamp and was very much frowned upon in its day – the silver Jubilee year. I still have my copy purchased as an entranced 12 year old which my mother raised her eyebrows at and said “I’m not sure I approve of you having that”. Which made me very happy of course. The ransom note style of cut-out lettering came from the have-a-go culture of punk. In the days when Letraset transfer lettering was a common solution for designers, it was simply easier and cheaper to not bother and cut out letters from newspapers and magazines.

Their subsequent album Never Mind the Bollocks landed them in a courtroom after a policewoman decided to arrest the manager of a Virgin store over the album window display on obscenity charges. In court they were defended by John Mortimer, he of Rumpole of the Bailey fame, who argued successfully that since the Guardian and Standard had printed the word in their coverage and not been arrested, it was discrimination. Those were the days.

Sex Pistols God Save The Queen
Sex Pistols Never Mind The Bollocks
Blackwing Volume 56 Joe DiMaggio

Blackwing Volume 56 – Joe DiMaggio

Limited Edition – Blackwing Volume 56 Pencil

The latest (well, not quite the latest as the new Volume 344 has just been announced, but this is pretty new) Blackwing pencil is the Volume 56. What is it and what does the 56 mean? You can watch the video and it will explain it all, but essentially it is based around Joe DiMaggio, star baseball player of his era from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. The 56 in the name comes from his most famous achievement, a still-unbeaten 56 game hitting streak in 1941. The design is a nice nod to his shirt design.

poll results

Palomino Poll Result

Who was your favourite cartoon character?

In our recent competition to win a set of Palomino pencils we asked who your favourite cartoon character was from this list of classics, all of them originally drawn using a Blackwing pencil*. The results gave a clear winner…

Tom and Jerry – 47%

Bugs Bunny – 31%

Mickey Mouse – 22%

As someone who grew up on a diet of Tom and Jerry more than the other two I can’t argue with that one.

*For the record, Blackwing pencils ceased production in the 1990’s but have been brought back under the Palomino name. For some they won’t replace the originals (can anything ever? is that another poll for another day?) but for most they are still the best pencil you can get your hands on. Affordably.

Bureau 2015 Stationery Awards

The Bureau 2015 Stationery Awards

Our Top 10 New Products of the Year

This is the 4th Annual Bureau Stationery Awards and each year we chose our top products of the year. The only criteria is that they are new to our range during the past 12 months, and we vote on whatever basis we chose – price, value, style, function, innovation, cute-ness. Whatever we like in a product. The votes are then compiled and a winner’s list announced. This year with so many more staff we extended the awards to a Top 10. So without further ado, here are the winners and runners-up.


Nos. 10 to 8

The Bureau Top 10 of 2015 awards_no9 awards_no8

In 10th place was the useful-yet-fun smile clips from Ohto of Japan. Why clip papers together with boring old paperclips when these smiley faces will do the job for you?

In 9th place it was the Nuuna Glow in the Dark notebooks. Give them a good charge of natural light and flick the switch to watch it glow. Fun, but these are seriously nice notebooks as well.

In 8th place it was that old favourite, the Lamy Safari fountain pen. Why? Because this year’s limited edition (sorry, special edition) colour was Neonlime. Now sold out sadly but look out for a new special edition colour in April 2016!


Nos. 7 to 6

The Bureau Top 10 of 2015 awards_no6

Getting down towards the serious end of the voting, in 7th place was the fairly new arrival of Diamine Shimmer Ink. Ten colours of rather wonderful ink each with its own metallic shimmer inside.

In 6th place was another recent arrival – Maste washi tape from Mark’s Tokyo Edge. This is an alternative brand of washi tape, and whilst it is a direct rival to our favourite MT tape, we chose it for the very different designs it brought to the party, from baby pandas to cosmic rainbows.


And now the Top 5

The Bureau Top 10 of 2015

In 5th place was the only one of our Stationery Compilations to make it into the Top 10, but it was a very popular choice with the customers too. Known as Compilation No.10 it was made up of a Lamy Vista fountain pen and a bottle of the Herbin 1670 Anniversary Ink, it was packaged in a nice Lamy gift bag and made a good gift as well. The Vista was chosen as it is the pen of choice round the Bureau office – last count saw almost everyone with one (except me) – and because the clear barrel shows off the stunning Herbin ink to its best.

The Bureau Top 10 of 2015

Talking of Herbin Anniversary Ink, look what came in at number 4. Yes, the new Emerald of Chivor ink was the fourth colour in this amazingly popular range of inks and proved another big hit. Faisal’s gorgeous shot of the tempest-like ink says it all.

The Bureau Top 10 of 2015

And so to the Top 3 and in 3rd place it was the fun and playful Midori paperclips. As always, fun doesn’t mean frivolous as they are still a paperclip and serve a useful purpose around the office. But still, a paperclips shaped like a penguin or a cat? Surely makes you smile more than a boring old paperclip?

The Bureau Top 10 of 2015

And in 2nd place was the simply phenomenal Palomino pencil. Added to the range with a degree of uncertainty – after all, we have to sell them in boxes of 12 and they’re something of a punt if you’re unsure – they have proved such a success. The vote was for the three ‘core’ pencils in the range – the softer Blackwing, the harder 602 and the middle-of-the-range Pearl. There are also some limited editions out there such as the brand new 1138 edition, but we voted for the classics and they are a worthy second place.

The Bureau Top 10 of 2015

And so, to a trumpet fanfare, here is our Number One choice. And in true Bureau style we have voted for something you cannot buy. The special edition Copperorange Lamy Al-Star fountain pen was an object of beauty, rich and metallic and such a shame that it sold out in weeks. Maybe that added to the mystique around the pen? Anyway, as with the Lamy Safari we are due a new special edition in 2016 – look out for Charged Green sometime around February (think of a metallic lime-y green).

Click here to view the 3rd Annual Awards in 2014

Click here to view the 2nd Annual Awards in 2013



blackwing 602

The best pencil ever?

The Blackwing 602

We are just about to launch the Blackwing 602 pencil, and to trail the launch there are a couple of very nice videos to explain what the fuss is about. I could attempt to tell the story myself, but both of these videos do such a good job that there really is no point.

The second video, below, gives a nice persuasive history of the pencil as well. Well worth a quick watch.

Blackwing Boston Globe