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Peter Andrew Saville: A Famous English Art Director & Graphic Designer


Peter Saville (b. 1955)

One of Manchester’s finest, Peter Saville is most famous for his prolific work for Factory records for whom he designed some of the most iconic record covers which have since inspired many to pursue a career in design.

Born in Manchester, Saville studied at Manchester School of Art (then Polytechnic) after which he entered the music industry working with Tony Wilson at Factory Records.


It was music which drove Saville towards a career in design, growing up in the midst of Manchester’s music revolution he sought to create a visual language which supported the shift in music. In an interview with ‘The Talks’ Saville explained how being a part of it inspired him;

“Suddenly you actually became a part of it— We were suddenly there on the ground and as art students we felt this responsibility, post-punk, to propose a new visual language for youth culture.”

While At Factory Records Saville’s designs carved out the identity for the Madchester scene, not only for the record sleeves which promoted the music of the time but posters and supportive paraphernalia advertising the club scene, in particular the Hacienda.

The Factory style incorporated an industrial feel with the prevalent yellow and black colour scheme making multiple appearances on posters such as the famous Saville piece below.


Saville’s most famous record sleeve design was undoubtedly the cover for Joy Division’s 1979 album, ‘Unknown Pleasures’. After receiving a folder of imagery from the band, Saville opted to concentrate on an included image of a wave from the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy—feeling it represented the band’s music more so than just using typography. The famous wave pattern is taken from from radio emissions, from the first pulsar CP 1919;

“It’s both technical and sensual. It’s tight, like Stephen Morris’ drumming, but it’s also fluid: lots of people think it’s a heart beat.”

Despite being designed more than 30 years ago, the Unknown Pleasures design is still widely seen today, on everything from t-shirts to tattoos.


After the death of Ian Curtis, Joy division disbanded and later re-grouped with the addition of Gillian Gilbert to form New order. With his strong understanding of record sleeve design, Saville created a sting of powerful covers for New Order, the most famous of which included  ‘Movement’ and ‘Power, Corruption and Lies’

Both of these designs contained veiled codes, ‘Movement’ took on an Italian Futurism style with bold strokes and playful circles. If you look at the shapes closely you’ll notice that the lines form an ‘F’ for Factory and ‘L’ which is the Roman numeral for 50—referencing the matrix number FAC.50. The simple yet powerful colour palette results in a truly memorable piece of design.


In ‘Power, Corruption and Lies’ Saville sets a paint-by-numbers palette against painting ‘A Basket of Roses’ by Henri Fantin-Latour. The back of the record includes the colour code which you can use to reveal the title and matrix number FAC.75 of the album. The absence of type intensifies the nature of the image, creating a conflicting pairing between its banality and the modern sound of the music.

Sighting the cover as one of his personal favourites, Saville explains his inspiration behind the design explaining that the front of the cover is reminiscent of the furnishings of his mothers’ home while the back cover represents the present day when he designed the sleeve, deep in coding and industrial design. He explains;

“It’s the extreme ends of who I am—it’s like when you see a pylon in the countryside, it’s the pastoral meets the industrial”



Following the closure of Factory Records in the early 90’s Saville continued to design, expanding his portfolio to include a new design for the England football kit in 2010 and a reinterpretation of the famous crocodile logo for French fashion brand, Lacoste in 2013.

Even when designing for such big brands in recent years Saville still has such a curious way of working, everything he designs has a well considered approach and a deeply rooted concept. His Factory Records work will forever be an inspiration for its unique detail and representation of such an exciting time in British culture.



If you’re keen to find out more about Saville’s work at Factory records, there’s a wonderful graphic album available for purchase which contains all the amazing imagery of the time. 

We’ll be back with more design history in the coming weeks, until then why not have a browse through some of our previous #tbt features.

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