Peter Saville was born in Manchester.
Saville entered the music scene after meeting Tony Wilson, the journalist and television presenter, whom he approached at a Patti Smith show in 1978. This resulted in Wilson’s commissioning the first Factory Records poster (FAC 1). Saville became a partner of Factory Records along with Wilson, Rob Gretton and Alan Erasmus.
Influenced by fellow student Malcolm Garrett, who had begun designing for the Manchester punk group, the Buzzcocks, and by Herbert Spencer‘s Pioneers of Modern Typography, Saville was inspired by Jan Tschichold, chief propagandist for the New Typography. According to Saville: “Malcolm had a copy of Herbert Spencer’s Pioneers of Modern Typography. The one chapter that he hadn’t reinterpreted in his own work was the cool, disciplined “New Typography” of Tschichold and its subtlety appealed to me. I found a parallel in it for the New Wave that was evolving out of Punk.”
Saville’s album design for Joy Division’s last album, Closer, released shortly after Ian Curtis‘ suicide in May 1980, was controversial in its depiction of Christ’s body entombed. However, the design pre-dated Curtis’ death, a fact which rock magazine New Musical Express was able to confirm, since it had been displaying proofs of the artwork on its walls for several months.
Saville’s output from this period included reappropriation from art and design. Design critic Alice Twemlow wrote: “…in the 1980s… he would directly and irreverently “lift” an image from one genre—art history for example—and recontextualize it in another. A Fantin-Latour “Roses” painting in combination with a colour-coded alphabet became the seminal album cover for New Order’s Power, Corruption and Lies (1983), for example.”
In the 2002 film 24 Hour Party People, which is based on Tony Wilson and the history of Factory Records, Saville is portrayed by actor Enzo Cilenti. His reputation for missing deadlines is comically highlighted in the film.
Work beyond Factory Records
In 1979 Saville moved from Manchester to London and became art director of the Virgin offshoot, DinDisc. He subsequently created a body of work which furthered his refined take on Modernism, working for artists such as Roxy Music, Duran Duran, Wham!, Ultravox and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Saville founded the design agency Peter Saville Associates (still designing primarily for musical artists and record labels) before he was invited to close his office in 1990 to join the partner-owned Pentagram.
In 1993 Saville left London and moved to Los Angeles to join ad agency Frankfurt Balkind with Brett Wickens. Saville soon returned to London where he asked designer Howard Wakefield to restart the design studio. For 3 years they became known as The Apartment for the German advertising agency Meiré & Meiré from Saville’s modernist apartment in Mayfair that also doubled as the London studio. (The same apartment is depicted in the record sleeve of Pulp‘s album This Is Hardcore). The Apartment produced works for clients such as Mandarina Duck and Smart Car. In 1999 Saville moved to offices in Clerkenwell later renaming the studio in 2002 as Saville Associates (in 2005 it was then renamed Saville Parris Wakefield).
Saville grew in demand as a younger generation of people in advertising and fashion had grown up with his work for Factory Records. He reached a creative and a commercial peak with design consultancy clients such as Selfridges, EMI and Pringle. Other significant commissions came from the field of fashion. Saville’s fashion clients have included Jil Sander, Martine Sitbon, John Galliano, Yohji Yamamoto, Christian Dior and Stella McCartney. Saville often worked in collaboration with longtime friend, fashion photographer Nick Knight. The two launched an art and fashion website SHOWstudio in November 2000. Belgian fashion designer Raf Simons was granted full access to the archives of Saville’s vintage Factory projects and made a personal selection of Saville-designed works to integrate them into Raf Simon’s “Closer” Autumn/Winter 2003-4 collection.
In 2004, Saville became Creative Director of the city of Manchester, as a consultant.
In 2010, Saville designed the England football team home shirt.
Peter Saville i stumbled on while researching but his work caught my eye on how bold and different it was. It breaks so many rules of design but works well.