H.R. Giger: Reflecting on a dark, distinctive legacy


It is never easy to say goodbye to an artistic luminary. With H.R. Giger’s passing last week, the world lost a source of artistic inspiration as well as untold future artwork, designs and visual effects work that the prolific artist might have gone on to make.

For someone who took on such a wide variety of projects, Giger managed to maintain a very distinctive style: dark, often disturbing, always unmistakeable. Just about everyone is familiar with Giger’s prototype for the Alien monster, but not everyone knows the profound impact he also had on the worlds of music, design and just about every other corner of the visual world. Let’s take a look back at this great career.

Early Work

Giger, born in Switzerland, disobeyed his father’s request to become a pharmacist in order to attend the School of Industrial Design in Zürich. His early works utilized ink and oil as he began diving into the style that would become his trademark.

Ein Fressen für die Psychiateur

Work from Giger’s first exhibition, Ein Fressen für ein Psychiatür

Although this early work was mostly in ink and oil, he soon moved on to what would become his signature airbrush style.

Li I

One of Giger’s most salient images, Li I1974


A man with such a strong background in industrial design and such an immersion in the realm of of macabre imagery seemed a clear choice to create the creepy titular creature for Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979).

Giger imagined the unearthly creature through all the stages of its life, from egg to mature monster (8 stages in all), as well as assisted in the production of the prop itself. He went on to win the 1979 Academy Award for Best Achievements in Visual Effects.

Alien Suit

Suit of the grown alien that was used in the film

Giger was well known for his somewhat peculiar method of keeping a notebook next to his bed, in order to best capture the nightmares that haunted his sleep but illuminated his career.

Album Artwork

Giger’s work soon became very prominent on a global scale and he became the preeminent artist in the realm of the disturbing. As such, he was frequently called upon to create artwork for musical artists looking to associate themselves with Giger’s particular world of gruesome imagery, which highlighted the often frightening connection between men and machines and would allude to their dark musical subject matter.

Brain Salad Surgery

One of Giger’s first album artworks for Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s album Brain Salad Surgery. The dark imagery conveyed the band’s new-for-the-time deep and progressive sound.

Koo Koo

Debbie Harry recruited Giger for her 1981 album KooKoo in order to distance herself from the pristine image that she believed she had acquired

Danzig III How the Gods Kill

Giger’s evil visual style meshed well with the sinister melodies and lyrics of punk legends Danzig for their album Danzig III: How The Gods Kill


Giger taught the artistic community that a career trajectory need not be limited to any one niche of the creative industry. So long as your vision is consistent and distinct, opportunities will present themselves for you to continue expanding your imagined world – and, in many ways, making it a reality.

How did you first discover the work of H.R. Giger?

H.R. Giger: Reflecting on a dark, distinctive legacy | manda | 4.5
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