Design among the stars – in search of the secrets of the ★ sleeve

In his artwork for David Bowie’s last album, designer Jonathan Barnbrook provided the musician’s fans with a range of hidden elements to discover. Intrigued by the findings – and the theories behind them – our columnist finally opens up his own vinyl copy to see for himself


For almost a year now, I’ve owned a sealed copy of ★. I haven’t listened to it, not once. Somewhere between ordering it and receiving it, the unthinkable happened and the context of David Bowie’s final album changed in an instant.

Bowie knew what was coming – he always knew what was coming – so it soon became apparent that this wasn’t merely a collection of new songs. It was an end, a farewell, a sealed envelope on the pillow of a hospital bed. So when it finally arrived, I filed it away and took solace in denial – not prepared for whatever sadness, fear and mortality it might contain