Peter Saville


To know that the design for Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures was nervously put together in one night, by a recently graduated art student who wouldn't have been able to print it in color even if that's what the band demanded, is astonishing. But it's the truth. In 1979, Peter Saville would have just graduated from Manchester Polytechnic where he studied graphic design. Saville, who grew up in Manchester, UK, became involved with the band through Tony Wilson, a journalist and broadcaster, eventually going on to found Factory Records with Wilson, as well as Martin Hannett, producer for Unknown Pleasures.

The designs for the sleeves of many Joy Division and ultimately New Order records came from a coupling of Saville's wide array of design and art influences with his desire to create something accessible to audiences.

For Saville, the UK artwork for Kraftwerk's Autobahn was revolutionary. A German Autobahn sign and nothing else, the idea of a symbol holding weight and allowing for interpretation, an idea that would come to be better understood through the burgeoning discipline of semiotics, spoke to Saville. After the promises of the sixties were found to be untrue and the energy of punk had passed, Saville and his contemporaries took it upon themselves to create a new visual culture, with a prescient understanding of where they fit in history. They saw themselves as the founders of a moment, drawing analogies between themselves and the early cultural and artistic upheavals of the 20th century, such as Italian Futurism and the Bauhaus School.

Saville's main goal was to create visual objects that he would have "wanted to have", things that would inspire folks who looked at his record sleeves. In order to do so, he ran the gamut from industrial to technological to natural, from modern to pop art. And by making his work accessible, he helped contribute to what he describes as the flattening of cultural hierarchy between different forms of art. Design or architecture, Saville would argue, is no less fine art than Fine Art.
Statement by Omar El-Sabrout

A conversation with

Peter Saville