SPencer Elden, who appeared naked as a baby on the cover of Nirvana’s 1991 album Nevermind, is suing the band, alleging sexual exploitation. He says his parents never signed a statement authorizing the use of the photograph, which shows him swimming toward a dollar bill hanging from a hook, and that its long-lasting distribution (it has sold more than 30 million copies) has left him with ” lifetime damage “. Elden also wants the artwork changed for all future Nevermind releases.
In response, former Nirvana drummer (and Foo Fighters frontman) Dave Grohl has said has “many ideas” of how the surviving members of the band might alter the cover art, which was directed by Robert Fisher, before a belated 30th anniversary reissue.
How do you redesign one of the most famous albums in history? We asked five artists and designers how they would approach the overwhelming report.
Artist and Illustrator (Cover Design for Dinosaur Jr, Ween, Grateful Dead)
“I cannot think of a work with stronger connotations and public impact. It would be hard for me to get there with a clear slate. Nevermind changed my life, so it would be very difficult to remove 30 years from that album. You have to use the original album cover and comment on it. The symbolism fits this claim perfectly: it is the same boy chasing the dollar. It is ironic and strange.
“I don’t want to add too much of my own personality. I would go back to the original visions of Kurt Cobain. Did you have a creative direction on the B side? Maybe you will find a different version of the photo, like one where you only see the baby’s ass. Something from a different angle that creates a different perspective, something that brings him into the future without discarding the past. “
Head of Learning Design, Bass (Elbow)
“I’d throw a party and take it on tour with a bunch of fans and I’d have a traveling canvas that would roll from place to place, going back to the Nirvana tour in 1990. Then the fans do the artwork while there. with all your sweat, debris and leftovers. I’d take an aerial shot of all of that, so that the whole world gets the hang of it. People could do whatever they wanted and therefore they would end up with sweat, urine and guts on the floor. Well, maybe not with guts. Sweaters, false eyelashes, lost keys, all gathered up and bundled up too. A huge, sweaty montage that is carried from one place to another and continues to be built, all in honor of this album. “
Designer and Creative Director (Arlo Parks, Interpol, J Hus)
“He would collaborate with Robert Fisher to make a contemporary version of Kurt’s original vision. The cover is supposed to be provocative, so I’d start there. Something Kurt said about people buying his music was, ‘If you’re sexist, racist, homophobic, or basically an idiot, don’t buy this CD. I don’t care if you like me; Hate you.’ So I would dump the baby and dump the water and have a giant sticker with that quote. Then if people want to see where that came from, they could have an internal, layered dropdown over the baby that tells Kurt’s original narrative.
“I would like to be respectful of Kurt’s wishes. My job is to make the artist’s visions beautiful, not conforming; I don’t care about the general public, especially on a seminal album like Nevermind. “
Graphic Designer (Madonna, Foo Fighters, BTS)
“My first instinct is to pay homage to the original, so I would cut back and focus more on keeping the baby’s head… I would put it in the lower left corner and then I would have the dollar bill floating up on the right side.
“If I completely redo it, I could do something great with the texture of the pool water, like have the dollar bill floating in a pool and reimagine it without the baby involved. But I don’t think you can stray too far from the original without upsetting the fans too much. “
Head of Creativity, Beggars Group (David Bowie, Blur, Pulp)
“It would be a terrifying process. Everybody will fully program it because no one is going to think that it is as good as something that sold millions and is an iconic cover. But it could be an avenue for creativity and an opportunity to do something relevant for very changing times.
“I would use the existing image, but start integrating it into a graffiti collage of a street artist, or commission a female artist to be able to make a really political statement. You can use the original and then completely annihilate it by finding an artist who says something relevant. Instead of just removing your genitals, it could be a huge platform forever. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism