Squaring the Circle is a 2022 film about the story of Hipgnosis, the designers and the album covers they created. And while you may have never heard of Hipgnosis, or their founders Po (Aubrey Powell) and Storm (Thorgerson), you have seen their work on the album covers of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Wings, Peter Gabriel, and many many more.

Most of the iconic album covers of the ’60s and ’70s were created by Hipgnosis, and this documentary is about the outfit that created those designs and the behind-the-scenes of how those album covers came to life.

Remember, this is before digital manipulation. This isn’t just taking photos and working on it in Photoshop. This is physical film and chemical baths, this is actual drawing, and if you want to take a picture of something outlandish, you must first make it real.

Drugs, music, graphic design, art, and the swinging sixties from a perspective that you don’t often see. This documentary is a must for designers and creatives alike. To get the behind the scenes on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy, Presence, and In Through the Out Door, Wings’ Band on the Run, Greatest, and many more is food for the creative soul.

Before watching this documentary I couldn’t have named Hipgnosis or picked one of their founders out of a lineup, and I still don’t think I could, but I absolutely knew their work, and so do you.

However, this documentary is also a bit of a dirge for the art of the album cover. Dark Side of the Moon for example isn’t just a great piece of design, it’s a great piece of design that houses a great album. For Wish You Where Here they had to literally light a man on fire. You may be thinking to yourself of other, more contemporary album covers, but many of those, like Nirvana’s Nevermind or Green Day’s Dookie are much more famous because of the music than the art.

That’s not dismissive, it’s just how influential these covers were at the time. Noel Gallagher, as one of the show’s many talking heads, actually discusses album covers as a poor man’s art collection, and while he’s not wrong, he does get to stand in and lament the fact that in today’s streaming music era, those tiny album cover thumbnails are an after thought to most users.

Perhaps it will surprise younger viewers just how important the package the music came in used to be.

Squaring the Circle: The Story of Hipgnosis is only one hour and forty-one minutes long. This documentary talks about the Sixties, the company itself, and some of the artwork. It doesn’t cover all of the artwork, it couldn’t. But there is a wonderful website Hipgnosiscovers.com that does detail all of the covers they created. It is a website to get lost in.

It is a website archive of the art that used to be released with music when music was more of an art form and less of a commodity. This documentary is a peak behind a curtain that has been closed for decades. But it has got me thinking about the important album covers in my collection, and that will take some time to determine.

But for me, for now, I’ll just be busy recommending this documentary to you and to every designer friend I have!