This object is currently on display in room 103 as part of Hear, See, Play: Designing with Sound. There are 3 other images of this object. See our image rights statement.


See more objects with the tag pattern, dots, music, monochrome, black and white, rhythm, jazz, Bauhaus, album.

Object Timeline



  • Work on this object began.


  • We acquired this object.




  • You found it!

Record Cover, Persuasive Percussion, 1959

This is a Record cover. It was designed by Josef Albers and made for (as the client) Command Records. It is dated 1959 and we acquired it in 2009. Its medium is offset lithograph on white wove paper, gate-fold cardboard, black vinyl 33 1/3 rpm record. It is a part of the Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design department.

This is one of a set of seven album covers (1959–61) designed by Josef Albers for Command Records. The compositions for the series are abstract, relying on differences of scale and color to convey syncopation, rhythm, and tone. In Persuasive Percussion, dots appear to be released from a rigid grid of dots below to hover randomly in space.
Albers, principally associated with the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany, prior to teaching at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, was instrumental in developing the Department of Design at Yale University. His investigation of color theory is best known through his series of paintings and prints, Homage to the Square (begun in 1949), and his publication, Interaction of Color (1963), which influenced color field painting and the conceptual artists of the 1960s.
Command Records was founded in 1959 by Enoch Light, a classically trained violinist active as a band leader and recording entrepreneur after World War II. Bringing a high degree of sophistication to the marketing of stereo recordings, Light selected and arranged musical compositions, taking advantage of the right-left channelization of the new stereo equipment. To match the avant-garde nature of the musical compositions, Light asked Albers to produce designs that would evoke the syncopated spirit of the music and suggest the avant-garde nature of the music scene. Each cover in the series is a visual metaphor for the tempos and rhythms of the instruments featured on the tracks, including marimbas, trap sets, and bongos. Additionally, these albums showcase the innovative gatefold cover, which was first introduced by Light for Command Records. The gatefold design allowed for expanded liner notes and technical commentary pertaining to the production of the stereo recordings.
The critic Martin Filler has commented on how gestalt perception influenced Albers’s designs for the Command Records album covers. According to Filler, Albers is able to graphically convey the effect of listening to the musical arrangements by equating the sounds of the percussion instruments to abstract geometrical forms of varying size. Albers was known to have been interested in gestalt theory as early as 1930, when he attended lectures on the subject delivered by Count Karlfried von Dürckheim at the University of Leipzig. Other colleagues of Albers at the Bauhaus, including Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee, were also keenly interested in the implications of gestalt theory on modern painting.
This is one of four Albers designs for Command Records under consideration for acquisition. These works will enhance the museum’s collection of graphic design by significant designers of second half of 20th century.

This object was featured in our Object of the Day series in a post titled Albers's album cover.

This object was donated by Mathew Weaver. It is credited Gift of Mathew Weaver in honor of Lenora J. and Robert J. Weaver.

Our curators have highlighted 4 objects that are related to this one. Here are three of them, selected at random:

  • Object ID #907131607
  • crayon and gouache on paper.
  • The Collection of Richard H. Driehaus, Chicago.
  • 49.2016.3

Its dimensions are

Closed cover: 31.6 x 31.6 cm (12 7/16 x 12 7/16 in.) Open cover: 31.6 x 63.4 cm (12 7/16 x 24 15/16 in.)

Cite this object as

Record Cover, Persuasive Percussion, 1959; Designed by Josef Albers (German, 1888–1976, active USA, 1933–1976); USA; offset lithograph on white wove paper, gate-fold cardboard, black vinyl 33 1/3 rpm record; Closed cover: 31.6 x 31.6 cm (12 7/16 x 12 7/16 in.) Open cover: 31.6 x 63.4 cm (12 7/16 x 24 15/16 in.); Gift of Mathew Weaver in honor of Lenora J. and Robert J. Weaver; 2009-44-1-a/d

This object may be subject to Copyright or other restrictions.

You are welcome to make fair use of this image under U.S. Copyright law and in compliance with our terms of use. Please note that you are responsible for determining whether your use is fair and for responding to any claims that may arise from your use.

For higher resolution or commercial use contact ArtResource.

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Record Cover, Persuasive Percussion, 1959 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=16 January 2018 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>

If you would like to tell us more about an object or have found an error in an object record, please let us know!