Once the recording sessions for the album Animals was complete, work began on its cover. Hipgnosis, designer of the band’s previous album covers, offered three ideas, one of which was a small child entering his parents’ bedroom to find them having sex—“copulating, like animals!”—but unusually the final concept was designed by Waters.
At the time he lived near Clapham Common, and regularly drove past Battersea Power Station, which was by then approaching the end of its useful life. The building was chosen as the subject of the cover image, and the band commissioned German company Ballon Fabrik (who had previously constructed Zeppelin airships) and Australian artist Jeffrey Shaw to build a 30 feet (9.1 m) pig-shaped balloon (known as Algie).
The balloon was inflated with helium and manoeuvred into position on 2 December, with a trained marksman ready to fire if it escaped. Unfortunately inclement weather delayed shooting, and the band’s manager Steve O’Rourke had neglected to book the marksman for a second day. The balloon broke free of its moorings and ascended into the sky. It eventually landed in Kent, and was recovered by a local farmer, reportedly furious that it had “apparently scared his cows” The balloon was recovered and shooting continued for a third day, but the image of the pig was later superimposed onto the cover photograph as the early photographs of the power station were considered to be better. The album’s theme continues onto the record’s picture labels. Side one’s label shows a fish-eye lens view of a dog and the English countryside, and side two features a pig and sheep, in the same setting. Drummer Nick Mason’s handwriting is used as a typeface throughout the packaging. The gatefold of this masterpiece features monochrome photographs of the dereliction around the power station.