The history of the album cover and show poster begins with jazz. Alex Steinweiss started creating the first album artwork at Columbia Records in the late 30s, replacing the brown paper sleeves that jazz 78s came in. David Stone Martin did early work for Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic, creating unique lettering and illustrations with a crow quill pen (his work is in the Smithsonian). But the most influential designer was probably Reid Miles, who created over 500 album covers for Blue Note Records. He pioneered the use of creatively-arranged type over monochromatic photography, which is a style that is still widely used in graphic design today.

Rather than post 100s of covers and posters, I wanted to isolate the lettering for easy browsing and analysis. There's a lot of lettering out there, and a lot I left out. I tried to cover most of the genre's significant musicians (and only pick one piece per artist), but if missed anything glaring, let me know.

As a bonus, there's a bit of a cross-over with one of my recent posts. See if you can spot the Milton Glaser lettering!


  • Ahmad Jamal

    Piano

  • Albert Ayler

    Saxophone

  • Anthony Braxton

    Multi-instrumental

  • Art Blakey

    Drums

  • Art Pepper

    Saxophone

  • Artie Shaw

    Clarinet

  • Art Tatum

    Piano

  • Ben Webster

    Saxophone

  • Bennie Moton

    Piano

  • Benny Carter

    Multi-instrumental

  • Benny Goodman

    Clarinet

  • Bessie Smith

    Vocals

  • Bill Evans

    Piano

  • Billie Holiday

    Vocals

  • Bud Powell

    Piano

  • Buddy Rich

    Drums

  • Cab Calloway

    Vocals

  • Cannonball Adderley

    Saxophone

  • Cecil Taylor

    Piano

  • Charles Earland

    Organ

  • Charles Mingus

    Bass

  • Charlie Parker

    Saxophone

  • Chet Baker

    Trumpet

  • Chick Correa

    Piano

  • Chick Webb

    Drums

  • Chuck Mangione

    Flugelhorn

  • Clifford Brown

    Trumpet

  • Coleman Hawkins

    Saxophone

  • Count Basie

    Piano

  • Dave Brubeck

    Piano

  • David Murray

    Saxophone

  • Dean Martin

    Vocals

  • Della Reese

    Vocals

  • Dexter Gordon

    Saxophone

  • Dinah Washington

    Vocals

  • Dizzy Gillespie

    Trumpet

  • Django Reinhardt

    Guitar

  • Donald Byrd

    Trumpet

  • Duke Ellington

    Piano

  • Earl Hines

    Piano

  • Eddie Jefferson

    Vocals

  • Ella Fitzgerald

    Vocals

  • Eric Dolphy

    Saxophone

  • Errol Garner

    Piano

  • Esther Phillips

    Vocals

  • Etta James

    Vocals

  • Fats Navarro

    Trumpet

  • Fats Waller

    Piano

  • Fletcher Henderson

    Piano

  • Frank Sinatra

    Vocals

  • Freddie Hubbard

    Trumpet

  • Gato Barbieri

    Saxophone

  • George Benson

    Guitar

  • George Russell

    Piano

  • George Shearing

    Piano

  • Gerry Mulligan

    Saxophone

  • Gil Evans

    Piano

  • Gil Scott-Heron

    Vocals

  • Hank Crawford

    Saxophone

  • Hank Mobley

    Saxophone

  • Herb Alpert

    Trumpet

  • Herbie Hancock

    Piano/Keyboards

  • Herbie Mann

    Flute

  • Horace Silver

    Piano

  • Hugh Masekela

    Trumpet

  • Illinois Jacquet

    Saxophone

  • Jack McDuff

    Organ

  • James Moody

    Saxophone

  • J.J. Johnson

    Trombone

  • Jelly Roll Morton

    Piano

  • Jimmie Lunceford

    Saxophone

  • Jimmy Dorsey

    Clarinet

  • Jimmy Smith

    Organ

  • Joe Henderson

    Saxophone

  • John Coltrane

    Saxophone

  • John McLaughlin

    Guitar

  • Johnny "Hammond" Smith

    Organ

  • June Christy

    Vocals

  • Keith Jarrett

    Piano

  • Kid Ory

    Trombone

  • King Curtis

    Saxophone

  • King Oliver

    Cornet

  • Lalo Schifrin

    Piano

  • Lee Morgan

    Trumpet

  • Lena Horne

    Vocals

  • Lennie Tristano

    Piano

  • Lester Young

    Saxophone

  • Lionel Hampton

    Vibraphone

  • Louis Armstrong

    Trumpet/Vocals

  • Louis Jordan

    Saxophone/Vocals

  • Mal Hallett

    Violin

  • Max Roach

    Drums

  • McCoy Tyner

    Piano

  • Miles Davis

    Trumpet

  • Milt Jackson

    Vibraphone

  • Miriam Makeba

    Vocals

  • Nat King Cole

    Piano/Vocals

  • Nina Simone

    Vocals

  • Ornette Coleman

    Saxophone

  • Oscar Peterson

    Piano

  • Oscar Pettiford

    Bass

  • Paul Horn

    Flute

  • Quincy Jones

    Multi-instrumental

  • Ramsey Lewis

    Piano

  • Rashaan Roland Kirk

    Multi-instrumental

  • Red Norvo

    Vibraphone

  • Roscoe Mitchell

    Saxophone

  • Roy Ayers

    Vibraphone

  • Roy Eldridge

    Trumpet

  • Sammy Davis Jr.

    Vocals

  • Sammy Kaye

    Saxophone

  • Sarah Vaughan

    Vocals

  • Sergio Mendes

    Piano

  • Sidney Bechet

    Clarinet

  • Sonny Rollins

    Saxophone

  • Sonny Stitt

    Saxophone

  • Stan Getz

    Saxophone

  • Stan Kenton

    Piano

  • Sun Ra

    Piano/Keyboards

  • Teddy Wilson

    Piano

  • Thelonious Monk

    Piano

  • Velma Middleton

    Vocals

  • Wayne Shorter

    Saxophone

  • Wes Montgomery

    Guitar

  • Woody Herman

    Clarinet

  • Wynton Marsalis

    Trumpet

  • Yusef Lateef

    Multi-instrumental