Meaning behind David Bowie’s ‘Blackstar’ artwork revealed

Designer Jonathan Barnbrook discusses sense of 'mortality' behind the cover

David Bowie‘s long-term design collaborator Jonathan Barnbrook has spoken about his work on the late singer’s final album ‘Blackstar’.

‘Blackstar’, Bowie’s twenty-fifth studio album, was released on the star’s 69th birthday (January 8) and two days before his death (January 10).

Barnbrook designed the album’s cover and sleeves, having previously worked with Bowie on 2002’s ‘Heathen’, 2003’s ‘Reality’, 2013’s ‘The Next Day’ and 2014 compilation album ‘Nothing Has Changed’.


‘Blackstar’ has been described as a “parting gift” from the ailing musician, with Barnbrook now suggesting that this sense of mortality is apparent in the album’s artwork.

“This was a man who was facing his own mortality,” Barnbrook recently told Dezeen. “The Blackstar symbol, rather than writing ‘Blackstar’, has as a sort of finality, a darkness, a simplicity, which is a representation of the music.”


“A lot of people said it was a bullshit cover when it came out, that it took five minutes to design. But I think there is a misunderstanding about the simplicity.”

The vinyl record sees the star cut from its black sleeve, showing the record inside. “The fact that you can see the record as a physical thing that degrades, it get scratched as soon as it comes into being, that is a comment on mortality too,” Barnbrook said of its design.

Speaking about working with Bowie in general, Barnbrook added: “He always wanted to do something interesting, often to the annoyance of the record company. He understood the value of the image on a record cover, when other people had forgotten about it.”

Following Bowie’s death, the musician’s producer Tony Visconti released a message calling ‘Blackstar’ a “parting gift” and the singer’s death a “work of art”.


Visconti said: “He always did what he wanted to do. And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way. His death was no different from his life – a work of Art. He made ‘Blackstar’ for us, his parting gift. I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn’t, however, prepared for it. He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry.”