We’re back with another edition of Design Legends, where we showcase the designers and agencies that have inspired — and continue to inspire — our work.
When I was asked for my own contribution to the series, I immediately thought of Peter Saville. An art director and graphic designer from Manchester, Peter was also a co-founder of Factory Records through which he created some of the most iconic album covers of all time — including those for Joy Division and New Order. After meeting the journalist and broadcaster Tony Wilson (also a co-founder), he was commissioned to create a poster for the first Factory Records club night.
Saville loved repurposing images he had seen elsewhere — the ‘Use Hearing Protection’ imagery featured on the poster was taken from an industrial warning sign he had when at college. As a co-founder of the label, he was given the freedom to design without any budget constraints or deadlines. Of course, it wasn’t the most effective way of making a profit. The sleeve artwork for New Order’s brilliant Blue Monday track reportedly cost so much to print that Factory Records lost money each time a single was purchased — which makes, at least, for a brilliant story.
I first encountered Peter’s work during the 1990s; I used to collect all the fliers from club nights at Sheffield venue The Leadmill and would post them on my walls at Uni. These fliers would be handed out to gig and party-goers in a little bag at the end of the night. I was always fascinated by the bold typographic approach of the fliers for the Hacienda in Manchester and longed for the day that I could visit the infamous club — with all its striking colours and industrial interiors. This was, of course, long after Saville had left Factory Records — but his influence still lived on in print long after the Hacienda had closed.
I was half way through an Art Foundation course at college and realised how much I loved this bold use of typography and vivid colours — and my course to a career in graphic design began. I’ve also been a fan of the use of colour in design and elegantly ordered typography which is always evident in Peter Saville’s work.
Early on in his career, Peter was inspired by the German designer Jan Tschichold whose work I also find inspiring. And he still uses a full spectrum of colour in more commercial projects. In 2004, Peter designed the cultural identity for Manchester and in 2010 the England Football team shirt.
In 2003 the Design Museum in London showcased his work in The Peter Saville Show which I was lucky to be able to visit and see some of the posters and initial sketches for his earlier works which are shown above.
Peter was awarded a CBE in the 2020 New Year Honours for services to design and continues to be a Design Legend. His style and influence remain just as relevant as ever, and is being seen, shared and replicated by a whole new generation of designers.
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