Stanley Donwood is the nom de plume of a popular English graphic designer, artist and writer. He is best known for his association with the British band Radiohead. He designed album cover art and posters for the band since 1994.
Born on October 29, 1968, Donwood was originally named Dan Rickwood and later adopted the pen name. He received his higher education from the University of Exeter. Upon graduation, he went on to work as a freelance artist in Plymouth, England. While studying at Exeter, he had a chance to meet Thom Yorke, the lead vocal artist of Radiohead. Donwood’s first impression of Yorke was that he was ‘mouthy’ and irritated. Yorke found Donwood’s appearance better than his and upon that he based the assumption he would either like him or end up working with him for a long time. Eventually, Donwood was asked to design a cover art for Radiohead’s 1994 single My Iron Lung. Henceforth, began their long-term work relationship. He produced artwork for all the Radiohead’s promotional material, including Yorke’s solo albums.
In the year 2000 Radiohead released the album Kid A, for which Donwood came up with a curious design featuring a series of images centered on mutant bears and mountainous landscapes. The next album titled Amnesiac, displayed another uncanny avatar, a crying Minotaur. He was inspired by Caspar David Friedrich and Hieronymus Bosch’s work. Besides, his past experience at war museums and mountain landscapes influenced his grim post-apocalyptic style of designs. He also contributed to the band through his writings which were featured most commonly on Radiohead album’s artwork. In fact, some of those can be seen on the band’s website as well. Donwood and Yorke were given the monikers such as “Dr. Tchock” and “The White Chocolate Farm” for their unique collaborations.
2002 is marked as the year when these two friends won Grammy Award for Best Recording Package. The award was presented to appreciate their work on the Special Edition of the album Amnesiac. It was followed by another smashing album Hail to the Thief and equally fascinating cover art. The cover was inspired by Paula Scher’s map paintings. Donwood applied acrylic on canvas paintings, creating maps of war torn cities like Grozny and Kabul out of brightly coloured blocks. Those cover arts usually employed politically charged words or phrases.
In addition to designing cover art, Donwood also began to create and sell large screenprints from 2006 onwards. It was an effort on his part to reconnect with the process of print making, he elaborated in an interview. Moreover, this practice provided him with means to share his art on a large format instead of small low quality album cover prints. According him, the large screenprint is seen as an artwork itself, offer a greater visual impact and in turn attract attention of many. An exhibition held in London, showcased Donwood’s exquisite series of fourteen lino prints of London landmarks that had been destroyed either by fire or flood. Lazarides Gallery currently displays these prints at their gallery in Soho. In fact, he used these prints for Yorke’s album, The Eraser’s sleeve and insert art.
In 2006, Stanely Donwood founded his independent record company Six Inch Records, in partnership with Richard Lawrence. However, he made an announcement on his website about the record label’s closure, in 2009. Additionally, he wrote a few books including Catacombs of Terror!, Slowly Downward: A Collection of Miserable Stories and Small Thoughts.