Peter Saville

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Peter Saville

The Greatest Graphic Designers of All Time – #3

Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division (1979)

While many have probably not heard of Peter Saville, outside of the music scene that is, his influence on the design world is not to be downplayed. Saville is responsible for some of the most unique record sleeves, most famous of which are the covers for Joy Division’s two studio albums, 1979’s Unknown Pleasures and 1980’s Closer.


Peter Saville was born on 9 October, 1955, in Manchester. He attended St Ambrose College before studying graphic design full-time at Manchester Polytechnic from 1975 to 1978. He embraced the music scene after a fateful meeting with television host and journalist Tony Wilson at the Patti Smith show in 1978.

After meeting Wilson, Saville was commissioned by Wilson to create the first Factory Records poster, or FAC 1. Saville joined Factory Records and partnered with Tony Wilson, Rob Gretton, Martin Hannett, Alan Erasmus and others.

FAC 1 poster for Factory Records (1978)

Saville’s career with Factory Records would see him design many record sleeves for Factory Records, most notably for Joy Division and its successor, New Order.

His album design for Joy Division’s Closer drew controversy when the album released just months after the suicide of frontman Ian Curtis. This was due to the art depicting the entombed body of Christ. However, the design pre-dated Curtis’ death by several months as evidenced by proofs contained by the magazine New Musical Express.

During this period of work Saville would draw upon re-appropriation of classical art pieces, ‘lifting’ an image from the past and reinterpreting it a new way on the sleeve design. Saville’s reputation for missing deadlines was comically highlighted in the 2002 film 24 Hour Party People.

Saville’s design for New Order’s Power, Corruption & Lies (1983) used “A Basket of Roses” by Henri Fantin-Latour

Saville left Manchester in 1979 to become art director for the Virgin offshoot, Dindisc, in London. His Modernist approach was applied to the record sleeves of various artists, including Roxy Music, Ultravox, King Crimson, Duran Duran, Peter Gabriel, and Wham!. He made £20,000 for designing Peter Gabriel’s So album cover in 1986, the highest amount he was ever paid at the time.

Saville’s career became prolific and his client listed extended into other areas. Over the years he was commissioned by Smart Car, EMI and Pringle of Scotland (not to be confused with the Pringles potato chips). As for fashion, Saville designed for Jil Sander, Christian Dior, Stella McCartney. In 2004, he became the Creative Director (consultant) for the City of Manchester.


Record Sleeves

True Faith by New Order (1987)


Rage in Eden by Ultravox (1981)


Discipline by King Crimson (1981)


This Is Hardcore by Pulp (1998)


Closer by Joy Division (1980)


So by Peter Gabriel (1986)

Just a friendly reminder…

Are you a graphic designer who dabbles in music or album art? Then pop down to Lemaar I.T. and we can discuss printing your work, in any shape or size!


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