Best Album Covers of the 80s

Share
During the 80s artist's awareness for their image grows exponentially. Graphic design is used to set a style and prepare the audience for what they are about to listen, with artwork that expresses the look and feel of a decade. For the lovers of music & graphic design here is our research on the best album covers of the 80s!

Here we go with one more episode in a series exploring the best album covers in music history over the past 50 years. The focus this time is on a particularly remarkable decade: the 1980s. We all know the Eighties as a golden era for music, selecting the best albums from this period, purely based on their musical quality, is a challenging task. Even more challenging was narrowing down a list of the 50 best album covers of the 80s.

During this decade, graphic design evolved significantly, with artists, bands, and designers paying more and more attention to the visual presentation of their albums. Their primary becomes to set the stage visually for the listener. And one more characteristic of  album artwork from these years was the emergence of the first computerized effects in the early ’80s – an example is the pixelated effect on Talking Heads’ album Remain in Light

Music & Graphic Design: Best Album Covers of the 1980s

We absolutely love the 80s (you might know that by looking at our graphic design assets ) so enjoy exploring our research into the best album covers of the decade and maybe pick one to listen to!

Queen, Hot Space - 1982

Best album covers of the 80s

Queen’s album cover, Hot Space features a bold, Pop Art-inspired design. It’s divided into four quadrants, each with a contrasting, vibrant background color—orange, blue, green, and yellow. Overlaid are simplified, monochromatic silhouettes of the band members’ faces, each in a contrasting color, creating a striking, Warhol-esque visual effect. The band’s name and album title are presented in a straightforward, sans-serif font.

Talking Heads, Remain in Light - 1980

indieblog best album covers 80s 02

The Talking Heads Remain in Light album cover presents a stark, pixelated effect over band members’ faces in red against a dual-toned blue background. The typography is disjointed, emphasizing a digital, contemporary feel, corresponding with the fragmented, computerized aesthetic of the imagery.

David Bowie, Let's Dance - 1983

indieblog best album covers 80s 03

David Bowie’s album cover for Let’s Dance features a dramatic, almost cinematic quality with a red and blue color palette. Bowie is depicted with an aggressive pose, highlighting movement and energy. The title typography is jagged and stylized, overlaid with lines connecting letters, giving a dynamic, almost electrical circuit-like design.

Mekons, Fear and Whiskey - 1985

indieblog best album covers 80s 04

The Mekons’ Fear and Whiskey album cover employs a two-tone silkscreen aesthetic with a stark, high-contrast depiction of a road leading to a cityscape. The use of magenta and blue creates a visual pop, while the textured appearance gives it a tactile, gritty feel. Handwritten-style typography adds a personal, DIY touch.

Elvis Costello, Almost Blue - 1981

indieblog best album covers 80s 05

A monochromatic photograph of a man’s face is overlayed with large, bold lettering in blue, creating a stark, graphic interplay between image and text. The design for the Blue album by Elvis Costello showcases an intimate moment interrupted by typography, suggesting a fusion of personal expression with visual boldness.

R.E.M., Reckoning - 1984

indieblog best album covers 80s 06

The cover for R.E.M.’s Reckoning album features expressionistic brushwork with a chaotic blend of creatures and abstract shapes. Handwritten text intertwines with the imagery in a freeform, almost stream-of-consciousness style, reflecting a raw, unfiltered artistic vision. The band’s name is prominently placed in bold, uppercase letters, anchoring the design.

Sonic Youth, Sister - 1987

indieblog best album covers 80s 07

Sister by Sonic Youth utilizes a collage technique, juxtaposing disparate images such as pastoral scenes, urban streetscapes, and celestial bodies, framed by rough, hand-drawn borders. The eclectic mix conveys a sense of DIY punk aesthetic, while the scrawled, graffiti-like band and album name add to the raw, unpolished vibe.

Bauhaus, The Sky's Gone Out - 1982

indieblog best album covers 80s 08

For The Sky’s Gone Out, Bauhaus opts for a stark, high-contrast design featuring a luminous white circle at the center, surrounded by explosive, feathery textures against a deep black background. This abstract, almost celestial visual is both arresting and ambiguous, complementing the band’s post-punk gothic aesthetic with its minimalist palette.

Michael Jackson, Thriller - 1982

indieblog best album covers 80s 09

The  album Thriller, one of the symbols of the decade, features a portrait of the artist in a relaxed, confident pose, with a white suit that contrasts sharply against the dark, shadowy background. The artist’s name and album title are in a cursive, metallic script that conveys a sense of sleek, modern sophistication.

Alice Cooper, Raise Your fist and Yell - 1982

indieblog best album covers 80s 10

Alice Cooper’s Raise Your Fist and Yell album cover is a vivid, unsettling tableau. A clenched fist dominates the frame, with a screaming face and eyes on the knuckles, conveying a visceral shock. The artwork is a blend of horror and surrealism, with the band’s name in a dripping, blood-red font that accentuates the intense visual impact.

Hüsker Dü, Zen Arcade

indieblog best album covers 80s 11

The Zen Arcade album by Hüsker Dü features a grainy, saturated image of band members standing amidst a scrapyard of piled cars, with a neon sign above. This gritty scene is rendered in a psychedelic palette, contrasting the stark reality of the junkyard with vibrant, almost dream-like colors. The band’s name is in a retro, distorted font, enhancing the cover’s vintage, alternative feel and making it one of the best album covers of the 80s.

Elvis Costello, Imperial Bedroom - 1982

indieblog best album covers 80s 12

The album cover for Imperial Bedroom by Elvis Costello and the Attractions is a striking pastiche of abstract and figurative elements, reminiscent of a modernist painting. Bold, flat colors and whimsical shapes create a disorienting, dream-like landscape. The playful, eclectic typography complements the artwork’s dynamic, almost cubist style.

David Bowie, Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) - 1980

indieblog best album covers 80s 13

The Scary Monsters album cover by David Bowie features a striking half-portrait of Bowie with a painted face, capturing his iconic, androgynous persona. The artwork blends a realistic portrayal with shadowy, abstract elements, creating a sense of drama and duality. The handwritten-style font adds a personal touch to the bold visual statement.

Kraftwerk, Computer World - 1981

indieblog best album covers 80s 14

On the famous Computer World album cover by Kraftwerk, the 80s graphic design exudes a retro-futuristic vibe with high-contrast, stylized silhouettes of the band members’ faces displayed on an old-fashioned computer monitor. The monochromatic scheme with yellow highlights underscores the technological theme, while blocky, digital font reinforces the computerized, avant-garde essence of the music.

Pixies, Come on Pilgrim - 1987

indieblog best album covers 80s 15

The album Come On Pilgrim by Pixies displays a haunting image of a monkey clung to a human form, draped in cloth. It’s presented within a textured, sepia-toned border that resembles a weathered manuscript. The band’s name is scrawled in a hasty, cursive script, enhancing the primitive, almost mythological atmosphere of the cover art.

Talking Heads, Speaking in Tongue - 1983

indieblog best album covers 80s 16

The Speaking in Tongues album by Talking Heads features a playful and colorful design by artist Robert Rauschenberg. The cover shows a bright, primary color palette with abstract chair forms and geometric patterns framing a central blue spiral, reflecting Rauschenberg’s signature style that often bridged the gap between painting and sculpture. The fragmented typography adds to the collage-like, dynamic quality of the artwork.

The Jesus and Mary Chain, Psycocandy - 1985

indieblog best album covers 80s 17

The album Psychocandy by The Jesus and Mary Chain features bold, overlapping typography in red and black, which mirrors the album’s title with its disruptive, high-impact visual effect. A desaturated photographic background of band members adds a sense of detached coolness, contrasting with the assertive presence of the lettering.

Pixies, Doolittle - 1989

indieblog best album covers 80s 18

On the Doolittle album by Pixies, the cover art is a collage of textures and images, featuring a vintage scientific illustration of a monkey with geometric shapes. The design has a layered, distressed look with a muted color palette that gives a sense of depth and complexity, reflective of the band’s innovative sound.

The Police, Synchronicity - 1983

indieblog best album covers 80s 19

Synchronicity by The Police features a segmented design with three color-blocked panels—blue, yellow, and red. Each section contains monochrome photographs depicting various surreal scenes with the band members. Bold, sans-serif type overlays the images, enhancing the fragmented, rhythmic quality that reflects the album’s theme of connected yet disparate elements.

The Sound, Jeopardy - 1980

indieblog best album covers 80s 20

Jeopardy by The Sound features a stark black and white cover with high-contrast, angular geometric shapes intersecting with fragmented photographic images of faces. The design has a post-punk aesthetic, with its sharp lines and minimalist color scheme conveying a sense of urgency and intensity reflective of the era’s graphic design trends.

Rudimentary Peni, Death Church - 1983

indieblog best album covers 80s 21

The album cover displays a detailed, intricate black and white illustration that evokes a sense of fantastical chaos. There’s a dreamlike quality to the artwork, with a multitude of figures and objects densely packed together, creating an almost otherworldly landscape. This design is associated with the band Father John Misty and the album “Fear Fun,” known for its whimsical and surreal lyrical imagery. The art complements the album’s exploration of the subconscious and the absurd.

Talk Talk, The Colour of Spring - 1986

indieblog best album covers 80s 22
The Colour of Spring by Talk Talk is adorned with a vibrant array of illustrated butterflies and leaves, set against a white background to accentuate the vivid colors and details. This natural mosaic forms an almost hypnotic pattern, emphasizing the album’s theme of renewal and the beauty of transformation.

Van Halen, 5150 - 1986

indieblog best album covers 80s 23

One of the best album covers of the 80s, 5150 by Van Halen features a muscular figure holding up a colossal, futuristic structure emblazoned with the band’s iconic logo. The artwork, bursting with energy and tension, is set against a tempestuous, cosmic-like background, conveying a sense of power and otherworldly strength that complements the band’s dynamic sound.

Asia, Astra - 1985

indieblog best album covers 80s 24

Considered one of the best album covers of the 80s, Astra by Asia presents a futuristic scene with a crouched, space-suited figure against a backdrop of alien architecture and a dusky, purplish sky. The design is reminiscent of science fiction imagery, complete with a sleek, aerodynamic helmet and a mysterious, otherworldly landscape. The band’s logo, styled to match the sci-fi theme, floats above, adding to the atmospheric quality of the artwork.

Tom Waits, Heartattack and Vine - 1980

indieblog best album covers 80s 25

Heartattack and Vine by Tom Waits features an album cover styled like a vintage newspaper, complete with article columns and a central image of Waits in a tuxedo, exuding a worn-down elegance. The design captures the album’s gritty, storytelling essence, with the singer’s name and album title prominently displayed in classic newspaper typography.

Was (Not Was), What Up, Dog? - 1988

indieblog best album covers 80s 26

The album cover for “What Up, Dog?” by Was (Not Was) presents a striking visual with a bold juxtaposition of color and monochrome elements. The stylized, almost caricature-like illustration captures a sense of movement and urban energy, while the handwritten font adds a personal, offbeat touch.

Toto, Turn Back - 1981

indieblog best album covers 80s 27

The album cover for “Turn Back” by Toto features minimalist brushstroke artistry, using bold, black ink on a stark white background, which is contrasted by a solitary stroke of red. This simplicity serves as a visual metaphor for the band’s straightforward approach to music in this album, focusing on the essentials of their sound.

Testament, The New Order - 1988

indieblog best album covers 80s 28

The album cover for The New Order by Testament is a vivid display of cosmic and terrestrial imagery, with a shadowy figure overlooking Earth from space. The use of dark hues against the backdrop of space conveys a sense of ominous power. The band’s logo, with its sharp metallic edges, adds a feeling of intensity and complements the album’s heavy metal genre.

Tatsuro Yamashita, Come Along - 1980

indieblog best album covers 80s 29

One of the best album covers of the 80s, Come Along by Tatsuro Yamashita features a graphic style with a pop art influence. The central Greyhound bus, heading towards Washington, D.C., suggests a journey or adventure. The bold, oversized typography and bright, flat colors contribute to the dynamic, optimistic feel, capturing the upbeat spirit of Yamashita’s music.

Supertramp, ...Famous Last Words... - 1982

indieblog best album covers 80s 30

The album cover for …Famous Last Words… by Supertramp is a compelling depiction of risk and balance, showing a tightrope walker mid-act, illuminated by a spotlight against a deep twilight sky. The outsized hand suggests a divine or external influence, adding a layer of meaning about fate and control, resonating with the themes of the album’s title.

Stevie Wonder, Hotter Than July - 1980

indieblog best album covers 80s 31

The album cover for Hotter Than July by Stevie Wonder exudes warmth, featuring a portrait of the artist. The radiant orange backdrop and red highlights create a summer-like atmosphere, complementing the album’s title. The playful font and the starburst reflection in Wonder’s sunglasses add to the lively, energetic feel of the design.

Roky Erickson And The Aliens, I Walked With A Zombie - 1980

indieblog best album covers 80s 32

Among the best album covers of the 80s is a chaotic fusion of faces and abstract elements, bursting with a kaleidoscope of colors and textures. It’s a vivid representation of artistic expression, with each brushstroke and splatter contributing to a sense of dynamic motion. The design encapsulates a feeling of raw energy, reflecting the creative and unrestrained nature of the music within.

Duran Duran, Rio - 1982

indieblog best album covers 80s 33

The album cover for Rio by Duran Duran is a stunning example of the glamorous 1980s aesthetic. The illustration, with its sharp, clean lines and vibrant contrasting colors, captures the era’s fashion and style. The sleek, graphic quality of the artwork, featuring the bold, elegant portrayal of a woman, complements the band’s sophisticated pop sound.

The The, Infected - 1986

indieblog best album covers 80s 34

The album cover for Infected by The The is a visceral explosion of color and chaos, capturing the tumultuous spirit of the mid-80s. The artwork’s frenetic lines and aggressive brushwork evoke a sense of urgency and unrest. The raw, almost apocalyptic imagery combined with the bold, red lettering of the band’s name creates a stark and compelling visual narrative.

The Police, Zenyatta Mondatta - 1980

indieblog best album covers 80s 35

Zenyatta Mondatta by The Police is a study in geometric simplicity and color symbolism. The triangular motif, splitting the canvas into warm and cool hues, serves as a dynamic backdrop for the band members’ portraits. This stark contrast reflects the album’s blend of energetic rock and contemplative melodies, emblematic of the band’s evolving sound.

Peter Gabriel, Peter Gabriel (Melt) - 1980

indieblog best album covers 80s 36

Peter Gabriel album (commonly known as Melt) showcases a haunting portrait obscured by a melting effect, symbolizing the disintegration of the self. The stark monochrome palette emphasizes the graphic lines of Gabriel’s face, creating a striking visual metaphor for the album’s exploration of psychological and social themes. The cover’s artistic manipulation foreshadows the innovative and experimental nature of the music itself

Morbid Angel, Altars of Madness - 1989

indieblog best album covers 80s 37

One of the top 1980s album covers, Altars of Madness by Morbid Angel is a quintessential example of death metal art. Its intricate, grotesque imagery, full of demonic faces and sinister forms, captures the genre’s essence of darkness and chaos. The monochromatic color scheme serves to unify the complex details, while the blood-red band logo and album title stand out, reinforcing the album’s intense and foreboding atmosphere.

Metallica, Master of Puppets - 1986

indieblog best album covers 80s 38

Master of Puppets by Metallica is a powerful visual metaphor for manipulation and control, depicted by the marionette strings attached to a military cemetery. The dramatic sunset in the background provides a stark contrast to the stark crosses, symbolizing the futility and tragedy of war. The band’s logo looms overhead, suggesting an ominous presence or overseer, enhancing the album’s heavy and dark thematic content.

Martin Briley, Fear of the Unknown - 1981

indieblog best album covers 80s 39

The album cover for Fear of the Unknown by Martin Briley depicts an eerie, deserted room with a picture of Briley himself within a frame, hinting at introspection or confinement. The solitary red boot, open window, and shadowy figure suggest a narrative of departure or absence. The room’s vintage decor and the peeling ceiling imply a past elegance, now abandoned or neglected, reflecting the album’s theme of confronting what’s left behind.

Madonna, True Blue - 1986

indieblog best album covers 80s 40

True Blue features Madonna in a close-up profile shot, her head thrown back in a moment of abandon or ecstasy. The soft focus and cool blue tones evoke a dreamy, introspective mood. This image, combined with the classic, elegant typography of her name, captures the essence of the album’s themes of love and introspection, contrasting the personal with the universal appeal of pop.

Grace Jones, Nightclubbing - 1981

indieblog best album covers 80s 41

Nightclubbing by Grace Jones cover art is an iconic piece of visual art, surely one of the best album covers of the 80s, featuring her striking, androgynous look. The chiseled contours of her face, highlighted by the moody, subdued lighting, project an image of cool detachment and bold confidence. The minimalist approach, with its dark palette and clean lines, encapsulates Jones’s avant-garde persona and the album’s new wave aesthetic.

Metallica, Ride the Lightning - 1984

indieblog best album covers 80s 42

The cover of Metallica’s Ride the Lightning album is an electrifying visual metaphor, featuring a solitary electric chair amidst a storm of crackling lightning. The ominous image, set against a gradient of dark to light blue, captures the album’s themes of mortality and justice. The band’s logo, styled to match the sharp angles of the lightning, conveys the intensity and power of the music within.

Fleetwood Mac, Tango in the Night - 1987

indieblog best album covers 80s 43

Among the best album covers of the 80s, Tango in the Night by Fleetwood Mac depicts a lush, nocturnal landscape, rich flora and fauna. The mystical setting, illuminated by the soft glow of the moon, creates a sense of enchantment. This dreamlike quality mirrors the album’s blend of soft rock with an ethereal, almost otherworldly atmosphere.

The Dukes of Stratosphear, Psonic Psunspot - 1987

indieblog best album covers 80s 44

Psonic Psunspot by The Dukes of Stratosphear evokes the psychedelic art of the 1960s with its vibrant colors and fantastical imagery. The surreal landscape with an angel-like creature against a setting sun is a visual feast, rich in detail and imagination. The ornate border framing the scene reinforces the vintage, otherworldly vibe, resonating with the band’s retro-inspired sound.

De La Soul, 3 Feet High and Rising - 1989

indieblog best album covers 80s 45

3 Feet High and Rising captures the essence of the late ’80s hip-hop renaissance with its collage of bright colors and playful, abstract shapes. The juxtaposition of black and white band photos against the fluorescent backdrop reflects the album’s innovative fusion of samples and eclectic beats. The design conveys a sense of fun and whimsy optimism.

Crimson Glory, Transcendence - 1988

indieblog best album covers 80s 46

This album cover presents a cosmic tableau blending fantasy and sci-fi elements. A celestial being appears to emerge from an astral portal, suggesting themes of otherworldliness and the transcendental nature of the universe. The swirling energy ribbons and distant galaxies underscore the band’s progressive metal sound.

Candlemass, Nightfall - 1987

indieblog best album covers 80s 48

This spectacular cover art features a classic painting style, invoking the Romantic era with its dramatic skies and ethereal lighting. The artwork, depicting an angel guiding a boat, creates a sense of serenity amidst the brewing storm, where beauty often intertwines with darker themes. The subtle use of light and shadow complements the album’s moody and atmospheric tracks.

Beastie Boys, Licensed to Ill - 1986

indieblog best album covers 80s 49

Beastie Boys’  Licensed to Ill portrays the tail of a jet airplane with a clever play on the band’s name and album title, suggesting rebellion and high energy. Among the best 80s albums, the minimalist art style with a focus on the jet, set against a plain background, emphasizes power and motion, reflective of the band’s dynamic and groundbreaking approach to hip-hop.

Asia, Alpha - 1983

indieblog best album covers 80s 51

This 80s album cover features a fantastical landscape that merges the natural with the futuristic. An eagle in flight, symbolizing freedom and vision, contrasts with the surreal architecture, representing humanity’s progress. The mystical overtones are highlighted by the ethereal sky and the band’s logo superimposed as a reflective pyramid, suggesting the album’s exploration of grand themes and epic soundscapes.

Beastie Boys, Paul's Boutique - 1989

indieblog best album covers 80s 52

Paul’s Boutique album cover captures the gritty essence of a New York City street corner, reflecting the dense, sample-heavy production of the album. The storefront and street signs, set against the urban backdrop, evoke the bustling diversity and raw energy of the city, mirroring the eclectic nature of the album’s groundbreaking sound.

New Order, Technique - 1989

indieblog best album covers 80s 54

Technique by New Order features an album cover that juxtaposes a classical statue with a psychedelic color palette, symbolizing the fusion of traditional rock with the emerging acid house movement. The amazing colors against the stark purple background signify the boldness of the era and the band’s innovative approach to music, blurring the lines between the antique and avant-garde.

Judas Priest, Point of Entry - 1981

indieblog best album covers 80s 56

The top 1980s album cover by Judas Priest presents an abstract and minimalistic design. The stark contrast between the dark foreground and the radiant gradient of the sunset captures the transition from the known to the unknown, paralleling the album’s title. The sleek, metallic finish on the band’s logo adds a modern, industrial touch, resonating with their heavy metal sound and the album’s themes of journey and discovery.

Europe, The Final Countdown - 1986

indieblog best album covers 80s 57

On the cover of The Final Countdown, one of the anthems in 80s music, a cosmic backdrop serves as the stage for fragmented portraits of the band members, arranged as if in a dynamic explosion. This layout, combined with the planet Earth and the stars, evokes the vastness of space and the album’s soaring, anthemic title track. The font’s metallic sheen and the vibrant colors reflect the album’s energetic rock spirit and its reach for the epic and the timeless.

Looking for more Album Art Inspiration?

Here at Indieground Design we are music lovers and great fans of the 80s. And of course graphic design is our bread and butter, so it’s only natural that we continually research album covers – they convey graphic design trends of a specific time, and them being artworks for musicians (art for artists) they allow for new ideas and styles to become accessible to the wider public. 

If you are curious to learn more about album covers, you can have a look at the other episodes in this series:

 

Enjoy!

Indieground Design

Indieground Design

We are a team of designers, developers & photographers from Italy and we love to create striking graphic resources! Have a look around our website to discover more about what we do and the services we offer!

Indieground Design

Indieground Design

We are a team of designers, developers & photographers from Italy and we love to create striking graphic resources! Have a look around our website to discover more about what we do and the services we offer!

Popular Articles
From the Shop
Check our premium products
Other Creative Stories
Wanna See More?
We have an entire archive of articles about graphic design, pop culture and 80s and 90s aesthetics. Check it out!
From The Shop

Graphic Design Assets

Follow us