Folkways Records’ founder and director, Moses (“Moe”) Asch emphasized the central importance of cover art and design by once describing it as a “marriage” between the visual and the sound. What appeared on the cover was an integral component of a complex whole, intended to support and enhance the sonic contents of each recording. While individual Folkways covers are often astonishing in their beauty, simplicity and originality, viewed as a collection, the prime design imperative emerges: to create a look to invite a listen. Viewed as a collection of images spanning over four decades, the covers tell a story of human creativity and experience that matches the vast and diverse sounds and music of Folkways Records.
From a purely pragmatic standpoint, an album cover houses and protects the record. For Folkways, it was also an important marketing and communication tool. It served as the visual entry point for the recording and contributed to the identity of Folkways Records as a whole.
On yet another level, Folkways album covers facilitated the broad dissemination of art, photography, and design reflecting Asch's conviction that the artist's work, like that of the musician, needed to be preserved and made available to the public.
The Folkways cover image, as well as the recording, was intended to both reach out to and be an expression of humanity. The covers succeeded in communicating visually, in stylistic range and thematic focus, a breathtaking diversity of the socially relevant, highly topical and, often, politically radical sounds within.