John Berg A’53 

John Berg art directed many of the most visually arresting album covers of the 20th century. Berg, a native New Yorker, came to The Cooper Union in 1949 and served as art director for the yearbook and the student newspaper. Berg worked in advertising before jumping to Columbia Records where he worked as art director, creative director, and finally vice president between 1961 and 1985. He was the man behind Chicago's "chocolate bar" gatefold LP (a Grammy-design winner; one of four in Berg's career) and Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, with his backlit profile, which originally included a now equally famous poster by Milton Glaser (A'51) commissioned by Berg. 

In 1973, he featured Sly Stone in platform boots jumping right off the cover of his album Fresh, a perfect summation of the exuberant, genre-defying quality of the Family Stone’s music. Two years later, Berg deployed a similar strategy—a black-and-white photo against a white background—to create another legendary cover, this time for Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run. Springsteen had wanted a sober portrait for his latest album, but Berg, poring over a contact sheet of photos, had a different idea. The moment he spotted a shot of a laughing Springsteen leaning on E-Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons, he knew the direction the cover needed to take: a gatefold design with Springsteen on the front and Clemons on the back.  

For a 2013 profile for The Cooper Union website, he described the process for some of his best-known album covers.  Link: 


  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.