Boston Album Cover: Paula Scher

Boston – Boston (1976)

Design: Paula Scher

Illustration:Roger Huyssen

After graduating from Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1970, Paula Scher became the East Coast art director at CBS Records in New York City at the age of 25. From 1972 until 1982, Scher designed approximately 150 album covers per year and produced corresponding ads and posters. The Boston album cover was designed in 1976 in collaboration with illustrator Roger Huyssen. This is an early example of Scher’s typographical work that exemplifies her interest in combining pop culture and experimental typography to evoke an emotional response. This approach and experimentation remained foundational to her design ethos and is apparent in her more mature works for which she would become famous for in the 1990s.

The 1976 Boston record cover has since become iconic for classic rock aficionados. The record included the smash hit “More than a Feeling” and the artwork carries what fans consider an ingenious, emotive weight with a somewhat guitar-shaped spaceship blowing up the earth. The science fiction-feel, and post-apocalyptic style, that really had very little to do with the music itself, allowed for multiple interpretations. The primary interpretation was an eclectic mix of art, music, and technology that corresponded with the band’s founder Tom Scholz, who was an MIT graduate and product engineer at Polaroid. This projected the band as risky or even mystical.

For Paula, however, she still views the now iconic album cover as mediocre at best. She is still amazed at how people still remember and bring up Boston’s debut album cover over 40 years later. However, this is a perfect example of her tenant that graphic design is not ephemeral. Older designs, such as this album cover keep popping up in the mainstream despite dramatic shifts in technology. It is also a good example of how early, foundational work is critical in how she thinks about her current design process wem creating new identities and environmental graphics. She still upholds and approaches work in a similar manner to how she designed album covers in the music industry.

The typography and illustration-style create an emotive effect between the viewer and the music contained inside and is considered one of the first examples of postmodernist art. Paula’s early work sought to mix pop culture with art and typography to engage people before even listening to the music. You can see in the 1976 Boston album cover a burgeoning interest in experimental typography for which she would later become famous for. However, it is amusing to note that one of the most iconic album covers in pop culture is considered “idiotic” and nonsensical by the designer herself.