In the digital age, buying physical albums has become somewhat of a hobby.
Instead of “to be able to hear the tracks” as the reason for buying them, they are now treated as merch.
What makes them a good item to collect though, is the design that they have, both the packaging and the physical format itself.
However for this article, let us introduce to you 25 albums with truly beautiful packaging designs.
Table of Contents
#1. THE LOST ARCHIVES 1998-2007 – ROBAG WRUHME
The Lost Archive is the second solo release of the German electronic artist Robag Wruhme.
This album is truly a work of art, not just its tracks but also because of the packaging design.
It has a simple yet elegant look, with the design simply embossed without any additional design on the front cover of the cardboard digipak packaging.
#2. 7.10.12 VINYL BOX SET – ZOVIET FRANCE
Zoviet France’s album 7.10.12 was released in the 7th day of the 10th month of the 12th year.
The vinyl album box set’s balck-out-white-in packaging is devoid of any design (picture or text) except for a printed yellow-blue sticker at the bottom center part of the cover.
#3. IN RAINBOWS – RADIOHEAD
Radiohead collaborated, yet again, with artist Stanley Donwood for their seventh studio album, In Rainbows.
What’s great about this packaging design is that Donwood did a lot of experimentation with photographic etching, putting the prints into acid baths, and throwing wax at paper to create the masterpiece.
This just proves that hard work really pays off.
#4. VOTIVE LIFE, SO CALM – CAVE PAINTING
This is one of the most meticulously detailed packaging designs on this list.
The front cover and all the inside panels have cut holes in different shapes and locations to accomplish the diamond design when it is closed.
Truly a work of art.
#5. DEAD AIR – MORDANT MUSIC
Dead Air is a nocturnal-sounding album by Mordant Music released in 2006.
The odd shape of the album packaging when opened creates the heart shape which is something that we do not expect from a song like this.
Aside from the shape is the way the is held below one half of the heart hidden by the tree and flower designs.
#6. GO GO SMEAR THE POISON IVY – MUM
Múm’s fourth studio album, Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy, serves as the shifting point of the group’s music style.
Though the tracks lean more towards electronic music, thus shouting modern era, it didn’t stop the group from releasing the physical album with antique-vibes designs.
#7. THE BOXSET – AMON TOBIN
Amon Tobin’s The Boxset, also called Amon Tobin, is a compilation album released in May 2012.
The box set includes six vinyl records, 7 CDs, and 2 DVDs.
What makes this album so cool is that it has 2 fibreboard sheets for front and back cover, 6 vinyl sleeves, and 3 CD/DVD housings that are bolted together with wing nuts.
It is by far the most unique, in my opinion, packaging design on this list.
#8. ASCEND AT THE DEAD END – GREENPOT BLUEPOT
Greenpot Bluepot is a moniker by New York-based artist Natalie Rose Lebrecht.
The album’s packaging is another idea people won’t have deemed a good packaging idea, but it apparently is.
The black pouch accented with gold and silver thread and sequins makes it look classy and antique at the same time.
What’s surprising is that the CD is stored in another circular pouch with a tribal-looking design.
#9. INFOTSWETOCK – BRINSTAAR
Infotswetock is a 2011 album by Brinstaar, a project by Moscow-based musicians Mikhail Myasoedov.
The album’s white CD is put on the back side of what seems to be clear plastic with four black rubber stands on its four corners.
These prevent damage to the surface of the CD when the album is faced right side up.
The front side of the plastic seems to have some line etchings that look like the branches of a snowflake from afar.
#10. A NEW POPULAR STAR ATLAS – SONMI451
A New Popular Star Atlas is an album of ambient music by Sonmi451.
The moniker is owned by Bernard Swijzen which he got from “Cloud Atlas”, a novel authored by David Mitchell.
The packaging of the CD was handmade with what seems to be parchment paper, made into a small paper pouch holding the CD, a printed card, a cut-out white star, and printed guide of the northern sky.
#11. THE SEARCH ENGINE – DJ FOOD
Thanks to Kevin Foakes heading the electronic music project, DJ Food, we got to have amazing tracks to listen to and a beautiful CD and square-shaped vinyl.
The packaging’s not a unique one with a book having a page with an attached CD wallet.
What makes this great though are the pieces of artwork that grace this album.
#12. VEDANA – KATERYNA ZAVOLOKA
Zavoloka’s Vedana is such a must-have album, not just for the music it contains but also for the great packaging design it has.
The album is an exploration of the element Water, thus, the snowflake design of the packaging.
The hexagon shaped CD album has one of the best color schemes. The best out of it is the contrasting shade of light and dark blue of the packaging and the actual CD, just perfect.
#13. BARKING – UNDERWORLD
The 2010 album release by the British electronic group, Underworld, was a release bursting with energy and passion.
The one we have here is the album’s limited edition with two discs holding 9 tracks each and a DVD disc holding all 9 tracks’, from the 1st CD, music videos.
When it comes to beautiful packaging you could never go wrong with abstract-designed albums.
#14. THALASSING – THALASSING
Thalassing’s self-entitled album has music made on accordion, piano, and guitar with the inspiration of the sea.
And we cannot mistake it for having other inspiration than the sea, thanks to the one of a kind designs for the album by Frances Castle.
It’s visual arts is just exceptional.
#15. UNKNOWN PUBLIC – VARIOUS ARTISTS
Unknown Public was a music journal with a compilation CD released by John Walters and Laurence Aston between the years 1997 and 2009.
There were a lot more other designs but this 12th issue takes the cake.
The CD is stored on a cardboard half cut wallet with Braille letters on the bottom.
And this music journal is not like any other journals.
The entries are as you see them, single rectangular cards with prints on both sides. All of these are housed inside a cardboard box with a sticker of the journal’s name.
#16. EXPO 2000 – KRAFTWERK
Kraftwerk’s Expo 2000 CD is not any different form the usual jewel cased CDs.
What makes it attractive, though, is the artwork gracing the covers and CD surface.
It looks simple, but it’s very pleasing to the eyes.
#17. HAIL ARCHITEUTHIS!
Hail Architeuthis! is a self-entitled album released in 2009.
The album contains a cassette tape and stored inside a 5” white reel to reel box with pinkish cream color.
It feels like an expensive and elegant gift with intricate designs on the tape and the box.
#18. GIRL ECHO SUNS VEILS – LOVELIESCRUSHING
The Girl Echo Suns Veils has such a beautiful packaging design.
The CD and all album inclusions are stored inside a wooden box where you slide the cover on top of it.
But that’s just a bonus because the real beauty of this album, aside from the music are the highly artistic bird designs on the card inclusions as well as the little black bird on the CD jacket.
#19. THE DUCK CASSETTE TAPE – LITTLE ORPHEUS AND THE ROGUE LYSONS
This album from Little Orpheus and the Rogue Lyons has one of the most out of this world ideas for packaging.
You might be wondering what the CD and cassette tape were wrapped in, I was too, and I was very shocked to know what it was.
It’s warped 7” vinyl! What a way of recycling, huh?
#20. OUR FEARFUL SYMMETRY (REMISES) – HUMMINGBIRD
Hummingbird’s Our Fearful Symmetry was released in a limited CD edition called Facture: Edition One in 2011.
The edition was like a coven of many inclusions.
There was the CD on a flip card, photographs, and more. All of these were packed inside what seems to be paper that’s also covered in parchment paper.
Very unique and economic.
#21. MINUTE PAPILLON – VARIOUS
The label Second Language released a compilation album featuring different artists in 2011 titled Minute Papillon.
The CD is placed on a rectangular box with a cover having a golden butterfly printed on the inside.
The black CD is placed unmoving on a yellow background with black CD holder.
The best thing about this album is that it comes with a magnifying glass that helps us read through a catalog of tracks printed in very small fonts.
#22. MUSICA IMPROVVISA – VARIOUS
Music Improvissa is a compilation album curating works from Italian musicians.
There are a total of 10 different CDs in 10 different CD wallets designated for 10 different artists.
There’s also two booklets that come with the compilation album. It has a very beautiful minimalistic design with only black prints on white background.
#23. LITTLE BLACK ROCKS IN THE SUN VINYL – ADD N TO (X)
One of the coolest, if not the coolest, is this guy here by Add N to (X).
The 10” single is stored inside a hexagonal case mounted on a square with the title and the artist’s name.
The coolest thing is that it’s protected by cut-out arms that looks like a shuriken when opened.
#24. UNKNOWN, BRITTLE, AND MANE BLOOMS – CELER
This twin pyramid connected by a thin thread was released by Celer in 2009.
They hold CDs from 3 different music releases.
The first one has four 3” CDs and the second has a standard CD and 7” single.
It’s so cool because when the packaging is closed, it’s a pyramid but when it’s opened it’s a four-petal flower.
#25. ORNITHEOLOGY – CHUBBY WOLF
Chubby Wolf’s Ornitheology cassette tape’s packaging design is one for the books.
The limited edition C92 tape with its two tracks is housed inside a black latex letter envelope package with snaps to close it.
It’s simple but very elegant, especially with a pink latex bow embellished on the back side of the packaging.
With all the physical album releases, it’s quite hard to look for those that have great quality and creative packaging.
So if you’ve seen one or you own one, consider yourself one lucky chap!
James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD, custom vinyl records and merch company in LA.