16 October 2017

The Wise Words of Peter Saville

It's difficult to think of an album designer who has exerted such personality and such a distinct aesthetic as Peter Saville has. Borrowing from Russian constructivism, the New Typography of Jan Tschichold, and Italian futurism amongst other movements, the intrinsic aesthetic that he creatively conjured became a transformative style in itself; as NME writer Paul Morley said of Saville’s covers, “you were tempted to applaud whenever you saw them”. Saville co-founded Factory Records in 1979 and designed album covers that ranged from Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures to New Order’s Power, Corruption & Lies, many of which transcend 'iconic' status and sit pretty at the top of the design hierarchy.

With an aesthetic stamp that's highly fetishized in fashion, references to his work are in abundance; from the work of Raf Simons (and now Calvin Klein) to the classic Yohji Yamamoto campaigns. The impact of his design work has seeped its way into neighbouring fields of the creative industries so here, I present 10 examples of his words bearing as much might as his work.

on creative belief
Creative people have to believe in the value of their work. If you don’t have any belief then you can’t give anything—designing is an act of giving, and a belief in the value of the work fuels the desire to express something.

on the evolution of pop culture
Pop culture used to be like LSD – different, eye-opening and reasonably dangerous. It’s now like crack – isolating, wasteful and with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

on art
As a designer, you think you know about art, but that rigorous process of who you are and “why do you want to do this?” is not incumbent upon you as a designer. You know about art by looking in through the window, but you don’t really know anything about art at all.

on raf simons

Raf is one of the great pioneers of convergence, transporting the art of sub-cultures into contemporary fashion.

on consumption
Design has become the cover for unnecessary consumption.

on why fashion doesn't interest him anymore

I don’t see any point in it. I mean, there was a point in the mid-’80s when I was thrilled to be involved with fashion because I felt it was still bringing something to people, still bringing them opportunities of independence. But now, all of these things have changed to almost an enslavement.

on joy division
For me their two albums relate to two polar feelings I had of Manchester growing up there. Unknown Pleasures (1979) conjures iodine lights on a wet underpass: the 20th-century city. And Closer (1980) is the gothic revival cathedral; it was the dark satanic mills, the Jerusalem of the Industrial north.

on the decline of rock 'n' roll
The incumbent establishment of rock ‘n’ roll had lost the ear of its electorate and it wasn’t really speaking to you anymore. 23-truck convoys and huge inflatable pigs over Battersea Power Station weren’t actually anything to do with your reality, with your life.

on record covers

Record covers have this special place in our kind of cultural assessment. We know that they’re not big Art, but they’re not just advertising either.

on mass culture
I can’t bear it now, and that applies to the fashion industry, the music industry, the movie industry, all of the mass culture of pop entertainment, designer fucking hotels. All of it. It’s become meaningless.