Peter Saville


August 19, 2022

Peter Saville (Manchester, 9 October 1955) is an English graphic designer and art director. He is best known for his single covers and albums released by the Factory Records record label, co-founded in 1978 with Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus.


Peter Saville was born in Manchester, Lancashire, and attended St Ambrose College, then studied graphic art at Manchester Polytechnic from 1975 to 1978. Saville got in touch with the music scene thanks to Tony Wilson, journalist and radio host, who, after a short meeting, commissioned him to create the first poster of the Factory (FAC 1), of which he would become one of the founding members. , along with other friends of Wilson, Martin Hannett, Rob Gretton and Alan Erasmus.


One of his most iconic works is the cover of Unknown Pleasures: the debut album by Joy Division, a British post-punk band formed in the mid-1970s. The record was released in 1979 under the independent label Factory Records, of which Saville is co-founder and artistic director. His position therefore allows him to work with the same creative freedom that artists exercise for their music: disconnected from the budget and deadline limits that are imposed on creatives in most music studios. The cover shows white lines on a black background. It is a comparative graph of the frequencies of the signal from the first pulsar ever discovered, the neutron star PSR B1919 + 21 (then known as "CP 1919"). The album and the band enjoyed immediate success until the sudden death of the leader, Ian Curtis, who committed suicide in 1980. Following his death, the remaining members of the group founded New Order, a band with a new musical style. In the following decade the collective stands out for its continuous experimentation, progressively moving away from the poor and visceral sound of Joy Division. The 1989 album Technique perfectly summarizes the results of this ten-year research and is a significant example of the group's musical influences. Also in this case Saville takes care of the cover. The image, depicting the statue of a cherub, is characterized by an unusual combination of shades: in fact, the colors are extremely saturated and unnatural. From the analysis of the works it is possible to identify recurring design features but, at the same time, also clear communication differences. Just like the music for which he produces the graphic identity assembles different sounds and influences, Saville proceeds through unusual visual associations. In fact, the creative process for the realization of both covers involves the de-contextualization of elements, artistic and otherwise, belonging to different spheres and historical periods, to make them relive in a new scenario. The subjects are translated into universes to which they originally do not belong, acquiring new and ambiguous meanings, generating a great evocative force. The differences between the works are evident starting from the selection of the subjects. For Unknown Pleasure the designer receives from the Joy Division a collection of selected materials, belonging to the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy, including the radio wave graph. Saville's interest in technology and the illustrative or physical translation of music is constant in his production in collaboration with the group. The turning point of this creative transition is represented by the most famous single of New Order, Blue Monday, released in 1983 by Factory Records. The cover of Blue Monday, also designed by the Manchester graphic designer, is of enormous impact in the promotion of the single. The vinyl packaging looks like a copy of a floppy disc, a recording tool for music tracks. Saville notices the object in the