Design Album Discography
By Mike Callahan, David Edwards, and Patrice Eyries
Last update: December 20, 2003

Design Records was a division of Pickwick Sales of New York, later Pickwick International. The first albums under the Design imprint came out in 1957. Originally, the label packaging was done in accord with industry norms, with decent vinyl, reasonably good jackets with full color covers, titles on the spine, and liner notes on the back. Within just a few years, this had deteriorated to noisy vinyl with lots of bumps and lumps, jackets made of two pieces of cardboard held together by the generic paper jacket back, and a front slick. In other words, "budget" (i.e., "cheap") all the way.

Like many of the other budget labels, Design leaned heavily toward performances they owned, songs in the public domain, and songs written cheaply by their in-house staff. They had few artists who were not either studio musicians or groups, or artists seriously past their prime. Pickwick was the owner of most of Eli Oberstein's masters from his labels like Royale, who had very old masters by artists who had been popular in the 1930s and 1940s. They made use of these along with generic orchestral arrangements. They even found a few sides to lease by those who were currently hit makers. Sides, that is, that the unsuspecting public soon found were early recordings before the stars had hit their stride or developed their hit style. Interestingly, one of the Pickwick staff writers was Lou Reed, who later formed the Velvet Underground and went on to solo stardom in the 1970s. Reed appeared as a singer and guitarist as well as a songwriter on several of the mid-1960s Design compilations.

Early Design albums, starting in 1957, were in the Design DLP series, obviously in mono only (stereo was not a reality on vinyl until 1958). The first label was black with a thin white stripe across the label through the center hole. Above the white line was the multicolored logo, with "DESIGN RECORDS" and beneath that, in blue lettering with yellow initial letters, "Spectra Sonic Sound". Beneath the white line was the record number, title, artist, and song list, all in silver print. Around the bottom of the label in yellow print was "HI-FIDELITY NON-BREAKABLE PICKWICK SALES CORP., LONG ISLAND CITY 1, N.Y. 33 1/3 RPM LONG PLAYING RECORD". The record jacket back, for the first few years, used a similar format. The record number, title, and artist were in capital letters at the top of the jacket back. Under the title was a black bar running horizontally across the album, with the following in white print inside the bar: "A DESIGN *CP LONG PLAYING ALBUM IN SPECTRA-SONIC-SOUND" Beneath the bar to the left were liner notes and a song list, and on some issues a short list of other Design albums. At the right was a vertical grey box running from the top black bar to the bottom of the album. This box had propaganda about Spectra-Sonic-Sound. Just above another horizontal black bar at the bottom of the jacket was an oval logo with "33 1/3 LP LONG PLAY" across a black and white field. The bar at the bottom said, "COPYRIGHT BY DESIGN RECORDS, DIVISION OF PICKWICK SALES, 1957" This legend on the bottom bar was used considerably longer than 1957. It was known to be used into 1959, at least, so the copyright date does not indicate the date of release of the individual record, necessarily.

Oddly enough, some labels of the first mono design were printed with "STEREO SONIC SOUND" instead of "SPECTRA SONIC SOUND." Later, in the early 1960s, Design lowered the cost of printing labels by going to a black-and-white version.

When stereo was introduced, Design tried a ploy by stating that their records were compatible mono/stereo, and could be played on either mono or stereo players. The public soon found out that mono players would damage these records just as easily as other stereo records, so after reissuing or simultaneously issuing about 50 of their albums on a new series (the DCF-1000 Series), they abandoned the compatible stereo series in favor of the normal mono and stereo issues. For the first thirty or so albums in the DCF series, the labels were black with silver print, and the same legend in yellow around the bottom of the label as was found on the mono label. The usual Design logo was not present, replaced by a circular blue, black, and yellow "Design Compatible Fidelity" logo. Around the top half of the label edge was 'DESIGN COMPATIBLE FIDELITY" in orange block letters, while around the bottom half in yellow block letters was "PLAYS STEREO OR MONOPHONIC". Later in the series, this label was replaced with a similar label with a white field in the middle with black print.

The backs of the first twenty or so issues in the DCF-1000 series were identical with the exception of the title, artists, and record numbers at the top of the jacket back. They featured some words by one Danton Walker about the greatness of compatible stereo, along with a box with some technical information. Below this was a listing, with small photos, of the first 20 albums in the DCF series. The black bar running across the bottom of the jacket back discarded the "1957" wording and replaced it by, "A PRODUCT OF PICKWICK SALES CORP., LONG ISLAND CITY 1, N.Y." Later in the DCF series, the jacket back changed somewhat, with the small albums gone and the "Revolution in Recording" screed by Danton Walker moved into a vertical box to the right. Gone was the black bar at the bottom of the jacket, but the wording was still there; it was changed to "COPYRIGHT BY PICKWICK INTERNATIONAL, INC. LONG ISLAND CITY 1, N.Y.

In addition to the Compatible Stereo DCF Series, Design began issuing stereo counterparts to the mono Design records on a new label, Stereo Spectrum. These records had a gold label with black print, and boasted "In AuthentiPhonic Stereo Process." This was probably a good way to say the records were rechanneled instead of in real stereo, as most of the contents were. The Stereo Spectrum series started in the SS- series, with counterparts to the mono DLP- series having no numerical correlation. Sometime after SS-71 was issued, The series was combined with the DLP- series, and the Stereo Spectrum albums were issued with an SDLP- prefix corresponding to the DLP- mono number. From the low DLP- 100 numbers to the low DLP-200 numbers, the Stereo counterparts had a "Stereo Spectrum" banner across the top.

By 1962, Design switched to a generic jacket back highlighting the "Design Spotlight Series." The old Design multicolor logo was no longer used on the front cover, although it was used on the mono labels. Instead, there was no logo on the front of the jacket from the late DLP-140s to approximately the DLP- 210s, just the label name in small block letters. Well, almost all of the records had the label name; one at least had the label name misspelled.
For some issues in the mid-1960s, Design also used a very plain black label for mono issues and a blue counterpart for stereo issues.
Late in 1965, Design switched to a new generic jacket back featuring a photo collage of "TOP POP GREATS" and changed the logo design to a part of a record album in a rectangle, suggestive of the album being removed from the jacket. Reissues of earlier catalog numbers from this point had a reworking of the logo on the front slick to match the updated logo design. Reissues also had the red labels shown below.
Concurrent with the switch to the new logo was a complete redesign of the label. The Stereo Spectrum label was dropped altogether and both mono and stereo issues of the albums used basically the same red label with black print. These labels were used for Design issues until the label folded in the early 1970s.

Design also released records in a Big Band Series (DLP-500), a Country Series (DLP-600), an Oldies Series (DLP-700), a "3 of a Kind" Series (DLP-900), and a Christmas Series (DLP-X). The peculiarities of these series will be addressed on the individual pages. One of the overall peculiarities of the Design records, however, is that many of the later albums were co-issued on Pickwick's other labels, Grand Prix, International Award, and Hurrah. Often the matrix numbers for the other labels' issues would be found either on the label itself or the trailoff groove area of the vinyl. Most peculiar was the habit of Pickwick of issuing the exact same album on three or four different labels simultaneously, under three or four different album titles and credited to three or four different artists! Most of the time, they at least changed the cover slick, but sometimes, not even that!

We would appreciate any additions or corrections to this discography. Just send them to us via e-mail. Both Sides Now Publications is an information web page. We are not a catalog, nor can we provide the records listed below. We have no association with Design, or Pickwick Records. Should you be interested in acquiring albums listed in this discography (all of which are out of print), we suggest you see our Frequently Asked Questions page and follow the instructions found there. This story and discography are copyright 2003 by Mike Callahan.

On to the Design Discography, Part 1 DLP-20 to DLP-199 mono issues

On to the Design Discography, Part 2 DLP/SDLP- issues, 200 to end

On to the Design Discography, Part 3 DCF-1000 Stereo Series

On to the Design Discography, Part 4 Stereo Spectrum Label

On to the Design Discography, Part 5 DLP/SDLP-600 Country Series

On to the Design Discography, Part 6 DLP-500 Big Band Series and DLP-700 Golden Oldies Series

On to the Design Discography, Part 7 DLP-900 "3 of a Kind" Series

On to the Design Discography, Part 8 Christmas Issues

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