Jonathan Barnbrook: “Heathen” with David Bowie

It is difficult to talk about Jonathan Barnbrook without discussing his involvement with the 2002 album cover Heathen with late artist David Bowie. This is arguably one of Barnbrook’s most famous contributions to the music industry. Bowie and Barnbrook worked together for 15 years on 5 different album covers. For Barnbrook, this was the introduction of his new typeface Priori to the world. This album for Bowie was a way to go against “popular pre-conceived or ‘sacred’ notions” (“David Bowie: Heathen.”).  

The cover of this album features a picture of Bowie without his name being an intentional element. This stated that Bowie was so recognizable that he did not need his name for people to know this was his album. The title of this album is upside-down, also hinting at the non-conventional elements of this album. The two artists decided to make this album minimal in design and elements, having on the black-and-white photo of Bowie with an upside-down Priori title of the album. 

The inside cover of the vinyl album shows another design made by the two. It looks to be a cropped, black-and-white Renaissance-era group of cherubs that have been destroyed in some ways. This has been said to be the “ desecration of the old with a bold statement of the new is a constant in all areas of creativity. The design represents this by using the destruction of religious art as a symbol of this renewal or spitting on the past” (“David Bowie: Heathen.”). This also relates to the melancholy feel of the album inside. There are other featured artworks by the two artists with the vinyl that these previous ideas bleed into. They all deal with the destruction of religious art to, in a way, make room for his new art. It is obvious that this would be controversial to many, but Bowie uses this to symbolize an evolvement of art in order for change to occur. 

Bibliography

“David Bowie: Heathen.” Barnbrook, 14 June 2019, barnbrook.net/work/david-bowie-heathen/.