British graphic designer Jonathan Barnbrook collaborated with the legendary musician to put together the sleeve of Bowie's comeback album The Next Day, which is due to hit stores in March.
The record's cover was released online this week as Bowie announced his first new music in a decade, but fans were baffled to see the artwork was simply an update of the famous image from the front of the star's 1977 album Heroes.
The Next Day cover adds a simple white box bearing the new title over Bowie's face, while "Heroes" is crossed out.
Barnbrook has now reached out to fans to explain the move, writing in a post on his blog, "We understand that many would have preferred a nice new picture of Bowie but we believed that would be far less interesting...
"We dare to think this is something new. Normally using an image from the past means, 'recycle' or 'greatest hits' but here we are referring to the title The Next Day. The Heroes cover obscured by the white square is about the spirit of great pop or rock music which is 'of the moment', forgetting or obliterating the past.
"However, we all know... we cannot break free from the past. When you are creative... it seeps out in every new mark you make (particularly in the case of an artist like Bowie)... People will judge you always in relation to your history..."
Barnbrook goes on to defend the decision to tamper which such an iconic album cover: "If you are going to subvert an album by David Bowie there are many to choose from but this is one of his most revered, it had to be an image that would really jar if it were subverted in some way and we thought Heroes worked best on all counts."
The designer is also full of praise for Bowie, adding, "He is quite a private person, so no need to say too much about him other than that he is a pleasure to work with. Very intelligent, funny, serious when he needs to be and generous in his thoughts and actions... He simply did what he always does which is to go with a radical idea and that takes courage and intelligence."
Bowie has remained largely out of the spotlight over the last few years - his most recent album, Reality, was released in 2003, his last live show was in 2006, and he is rarely seen in public.