AGI Co-founder Jim Ladwig to receive Lifetime Achievement Alex Award

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Grammy-winning packager created Digipak™ and pushed boundaries of cover art

Last Updated: June 27, 2005 6:36 pm GMT
(NEW YORK -- June 27, 2005) Continuing the tradition of recognizing individuals who have advanced the art of entertainment packaging design, this year's recipient of the Alex Packaging Awards Lifetime Achievement Award is Jim Ladwig, a founding partner of AGI (Album Graphics Inc.). The Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented during the third annual Alex Packaging Awards ceremony, which takes place August 31, 2005 at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel in Hollywood, California.

Ladwig won the 1975 Grammy Award for packaging for his erotically charged gatefold album cover for the Ohio Players' Honey, featuring a nude model. He also was nominated for Bach’s Greatest Hits (1963), The Faces' Oh La La (1973), Anita Baker’s Compositions (1973), REM’s Automatic for the People (1993), and Frank Sinatra’s Complete Reprise Studio Recordings (1996).

“I am humbled by this honor,” says the 71-year-old Ladwig, who will receive his Alex Award at the closing event of the 2005 Entertainment Media Expo (EMX), which also features the Entertainment Packaging Conference. “It’s nice closure for this career, and gives me a chance to go over all this stuff and remember all the wonderful relationships.”

Perhaps the Chicago-based Ladwig is best known for putting his stamp on special packaging both in the vinyl and CD eras. For The Faces' 1973 album Oh La La, which the U.K. music magazine Q called "one of the greatest gimmick-based works of album cover art," the 12-inch, interactive sleeve was adorned with the face of a man whose eyes rolled and mouth opened by squeezing the top of the cover.

In 1986, Ladwig created Digipak paper, a plastic alternative to the standard jewel case. “Unlike so many, I loved the CD format," he explains. "We did a lot of groundbreaking things for the CD.” As the major labels repackage their back catalogs, the reissues more often than not are enclosed in Digipaks, which are also art directors’ first choice for deluxe releases.

When Jeri Heiden, long-time Warner Bros. Records art director and currently principal of Smog Design, Inc., learned of Ladwig’s honor, she replied: “No one deserves it more.”

Ladwig first worked for Mercury Records after getting out of the Army in 1957. “I almost paid them to work there,” he quips. He would soon be designing covers for his musical heroes Cannonball Adderley, Sarah Vaughn, and Quincy Jones. In 1968, a supplier asked Ladwig if he would join him in a new business venture, Album Graphics Inc. By the late 1970s, AGI’s creative team would be responsible for producing 750,000 albums a day.

The Alex Awards were created in 2003 by CMP Entertainment Media and the International Recording Media Association (IRMA) in honor of Alex Steinweiss, who created the first album cover in 1939 for Columbia Records. The competition judges submissions in more than a dozen packaged media categories. At the inaugural Alex Awards, the then 86-year-old Steinweiss accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award. Last year, Blue Note’s Reid Miles was honored posthumously with an Alex Packaging Pioneer Award.

EMX is co-produced by CMP Entertainment Media and the International Recording Media Association. For more information, visit http://www.entertainmentmediaexpo.com.

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