I can remember seeing the odd Folkways LP in my Dads record collection. The covers always stood out. As I got older and started digging around old record shops l came across more of these LP's. Usually really obscure recordings, with amazing cover art. The label was always a bit of a mystery until I picked up a book by Adrian Shaugnessy from his Unit: Design/Research series:
Many bands were inspired by the recordings Asch made. Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and The Byrds amongst many others, have all cited Folkways' recordings as an influence. But for me, the covers were (in most cases) more influential than the music. The man responsible for most of them was graphic designer and illustrator Ronald Clyne. Between the 50's and the 80's, he designed over 500 covers for the label.
This was the autonomy that Clyne craved and why he remained loyal to Asch for over three decades: ‘He never mentioned price,’ said Clyne. ‘He never mentioned how fast I should do them, or what I should do. Nothing like that. Of all the work I’ve done commercially, that’s the one I enjoyed the most because I had freedom.’
The Unit Editions book was the only one I've been able to find (now unfortunately out of print). You can view many of his designs on the Smithsonian Folkways website.