Bruno Tilley, Bob Marley, RUN DMC & More

While I was at art college, I was on a technical drawing course, and i wasnt into that, they asked me what I wanted to do, and I said ‘I wanna’ design record covers!’. Their reaction was telling me that I would never get a job.
— Bruno Tilley



In a small village outside Canterbury one of the designers at the centre of Island Records’ golden era is sitting in the ‘cene armchair (thanks to an introduction by Richard Selwyn-Barnett of ) talking about some of the most famous musicians in history. And he has worked with each one of them.

Bruno Tilley designed the covers of some of the most famous albums ever and  even shot some of the most iconic music videos at the dawn of MTV.

Having disregarded his tutor’s negative warnings, Tilley finished his degree at St Martins College and saw an opening for an inhouse designer at the world famous label in London.

“I rushed down there with my portfolio, and didn’t even realise what Island Records was at the time. They were just having their first number one hit with Video Killed The Radio Star, by the Buggles.

“I walked in for my interview and I was handed a glass of champagne, I thought ‘well this is alright’ and was lucky enough to get the job.”

The rest they say is history. We picked out three of the most iconic pieces of work.

What was he like? I mean, he was Bob Marley, he was a cool guy.
— Bruno Tilley with 'cene Magazine AUT19



“Not long after I had joined, I was walking through the corridors at Island and I heard this reggae music coming from a rehearsal room. I followed the sound and ended up in this room sitting opposite Bob Marley, who was rehearsing for a show in Crystal Palace the next day.

I sat there for a couple of hours and nodded along. I knew his name but at that point he wasn’t as big as he is now, but the next day I went to the Crystal Palace Bowl and there was still 20,000 people to see him. That was really something.

The Legend Album is the biggest selling reggae album of all time.

It was the first time we market researched an album, where we produced suggested titles and I mocked up a variety of different record covers using a variety of different imagery. There was one great shot that I really wanted to use, that used on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine - shot by Annie Leibovitz, of Bob with his hair all sprayed out.

But, surprisingly the market research showed that people at the time were scared off by dreadlocks, so we went with this one, with a tighter crop, not focusing on the dreads. 

They titled it ‘Legend’, and it obviously worked. I think it has been in the charts ever since it came out.

What was he like? I mean, he was Bob Marley, he was a cool guy.”



Yeah my team put the Run DMC logo together. But it was very much a ‘Tuesday afternoon and we need this designed today’ kind of thing. Sometimes these things blow up huge but you spend a minimal amount of time on it.

They flew in to do some promotion, we took them off for a photo session and hung out with them a little bit and then they were off. These guys already had a lot of their imagery sorted and had it all together, it was just a case of just capturing what they were about.
I just wish I was on a percentage, that’s all.


Directed by Bruno Tilley
Music video by Eric B. & Rakim performing Paid In Full. (C) 1987 UMG Recordings, Inc.

I think I found out on the day that they were coming into town and we had to shoot a video.

We had already designed the posters, so we put them up as a background. 

We had made a scratch mix of their record and they had flown into London not knowing they were going to be in a video. When they heard this scratch mix (they were due to rap to) they were horrified and didn't want to do it.

So the only way we could get them to do the video was to shoot it to the 12inch record, which was at a different speed. We managed to get them to do three performances and then they walked out.

We took the footage, slowed it down and shot all this other footage around it. There were a couple of stars in that video, including a young Carmen Ejogo, who went off to be a star in Hollywood. 

It was a very cheap video basically, because we managed to shoot loads of little bits to go with the scraps of footage we had. It is one of the first music videos that had graphics like pumping words. No one had really done that before.

Directed by Bruno Tilley.
Music video by Bob Marley & The Wailers performing Buffalo Soldier. (C) 2003 Universal-Island Records Ltd.

More of Brunos work here…