Reid Miles: 500 Album Covers can’t be wrong

By Carl Glatzel, Editor


The man with a thousand layouts up his sleeve, Reid Miles has been a major influence on my personal design aesthetic throughout my career. His style exudes modernism with the occasional nod to the Bauhaus and International Style—God was always in the details.

Miles began working at Blue Note Records in the late-50s where he would go on to design almost 500 record sleeves. He typically worked on tight deadlines, oftentimes restricted to a 2-color palette and limited typefaces. He would at times hand-cut his own letterforms to realize some of his concepts, some of which are still emulated to this day. Layouts would range from economical and austere to complex and detailed with the occasional visual pun.

Layouts would range from economical and austere to complex and detailed with the occasional visual pun.

Among Miles’ collaborators, Blue Note co-founder, Francis Wolff, was his most prolific. Wolff doubled as staff photographer on hundreds of album covers—offering jazz enthusiasts intimate artist portraiture taken during and throughout recording sessions.

The early-60s witnessed the multi-faceted Miles adding photography to his list of duties, which would soon usher in a dramatic career change in the mid-60s and ultimately his departure from Blue Note. His photographic style proved to be just as modern and forward thinking as his layouts—displaying an interest in experimental techniques and the avant-garde.

The handful of album covers chosen to illustrate this post typifies Miles’ recognizable design and playful photography.

Breaking Point, 1964
Steppin’ Out, 1963
Wahoo, 1964
Some Other Stuff, 1964
Maiden Voyage, 1965
Out To Lunch, 1964
Free Form, 1961

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2 thoughts on “Reid Miles: 500 Album Covers can’t be wrong”

    1. It’s taken from a book about Blue Note cover art: “Blue Note 2” edited by Graham Marsh and Glyn Callingham on Chronicle Books. The first volume is great as well—including a foreword by Horace Silver.

      Liked by 1 person

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