10 Things You Didn’t Know About Peter Saville

The world of design has been graced by many renowned figures, but few can compare to the indelible mark made by Peter Saville. Saville is best known for his record cover designs in the late 70s and 80s, a defining era for modern music. However, there’s a lot more to Peter Saville than meets the eye. Here, we delve into the life of this iconic designer, unveiling 10 things you might not have known about him.

1. Early Years and Education

Peter Saville was born on 9th October 1955 in Manchester, England. His flair for design was evident from a young age, making a significant impression on his studies. In spite of coming from a non-artistic family, he pursued his passion with fervor, studying graphic design at the Manchester Polytechnic (now Manchester Metropolitan University).

After graduating, Saville rejected job offers from big advertising firms in London. Instead, he decided to stay in his hometown of Manchester. Working there allowed him to be part of the burgeoning punk rock scene, a decision that proved pivotal in shaping his illustrious career.

2. His Role in the Factory Records

In the late 1970s, alongside Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus, Saville co-founded Factory Records, a label that would profoundly influence the music of the era. Saville didn’t only lend his design genius to the record company but also its unique cataloging system. It was a significant part of the company’s distinct identity.

Including all sorts of objects in their catalog, from posters to places, Saville’s design and numerical cataloging style became an integral part of Factory Records’ aesthetic legacy. This creativity was a refreshing departure from standard music industry practice and added an extra layer to their ethos.

3. King of Album Covers

The iconic album covers of Joy Division and New Order were designed by none other than Peter Saville. These are not only cherished by fans of the bands but are also hailed in the design world as revolutionary. His design for Joy Division’s “Unknown Pleasures” album cover is considered one of the most iconic in music history.

Saville’s style is clear yet complex, minimalist yet layered with meaning – making each cover design a unique piece of art. From the heart beating pulsar waves of “Unknown Pleasures” to the colourful, abstract “Power, Corruption & Lies,” Saville’s work is imprinted on the visual memory of an entire generation.

4. Fashion Collaboration with Yohji Yamamoto

In addition to music, Saville’s work has made significant inroads in the fashion industry. He collaborated with Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto for his Fall/Winter 1993-94 collection. Saville’s signature graphics were woven into the clothing, creating a seamless intersection of fashion and design.

This collaboration marked Saville’s transition to the realm of applied art and design for the fashion industry. His distinct aesthetic gave rise to a new vision of graphic design sprinkled onto fashion canvases, forever merging the two industries together.

5. His Role in Rebranding Manchester City

Saville’s contributions extend to rejuvenating the image of his home city. The City of Manchester sought Saville’s expertise to rebrand their city in 2004. He nostalgically combined the city’s industrial heritage with modern bursts of creativity, encapsulating the essence of Manchester.

He chose a series of vibrant hues dubbed the ‘Original Modern,’ capturing the spirit of the city perfectly. As a result, contemporary Manchester’s visual identity reflects Saville’s design character in every street corner.

6. He Designed the England Football Kit in 2010

In 2010, Saville was approached by Umbro to design the England Home kit. Drawing inspiration from the classic English tailored shirt, Saville and fashion designer Aitor Throup created a minimalist, all-white kit adorned only with the England badge and Umbro logo.

Despite being involved in such a massive project, Saville demurred the prominence of his work, placing the players’ needs before artistic vanity. The design emphasized modern luxury and comfort, a testament to Saville understated brilliance.

7. He’s Not a Fan of Computers

Surprisingly, Saville admits to not being particularly tech-savvy. In fact, he proudly confesses to having never used a computer for his design work. This might seem strange in today’s digital age, but Saville’s work ethos is centred on creativity sparked by the physical world around us.

Instead of designing by mouse clicks, Saville prefers to design by hand. His trademarks—traces of handmade, humanistic elements—are evidence of his hands-on, tactile approach. Saville’s self-confessed lack of tech-savviness has done nothing to slow down his creativity or his influence on modern design.

8. He’s Worked with Kanye West

Music artist Kanye West approached Saville to design the cover for his album, “Yeezus.” Saville’s minimalist touch was evident in the stripped-back album artwork. The design departed from traditional approaches, featuring only a clear CD case with a red sticker.

Kanye West’s appreciation for Saville’s work goes beyond the “Yeezus” collaboration. The artist has frequently cited Saville’s influence on his aesthetic tastes and sensibilities.

9. Victoria and Albert Museum Exhibition

In 2003, London’s Victoria & Albert museum held an exhibition dedicated to Saville’s work, spanning his career from Factory Records to fashion houses. The showcase featured his iconic album covers, fashion designs, and examples of his unique design sensibility.

The exhibit titled “The Peter Saville Show” was a testimony to his immense influence on modern design. His unapologetic approach to integrating design into multiple industries and platforms has left an indelible mark on modern aesthetics.

10. He’s Never Won a Design Award

Despite his longstanding career and widespread influence, Saville has never won a major design award. However, this fact does nothing to diminish his considerable impact on the art and design world. His work speaks for itself, continually revered and studied by students and professionals alike.

Peter Saville’s wide-reaching influence echoes through the corridors of graphic design, music, fashion, and beyond. His legacy is seen in album covers, clothing designs, and in the heart of Manchester. It is a testament to his vision that he has shaped the visual culture of our times profoundly.

Learn more about Peter Saville’s life and works
Find out about his recent works and acknowledgments
Explore the extensive Discogs cataloguing Peter Saville’s design in music