May 17, 2013 5:23PM

Oyster Words: Peter Saville on Music, Manchester and Collaboration

Wise words from Oyster 102: The Peace Issue
Peter Saville and Trevor Key, 'True Faith Leaf', 1987

Peter Saville famously designed the cover for Joy Division's album Unknown Pleasures, released in 1979 on his label, Factory Records. The simple wave pattern (emitted by CP 1919, the first radio pulsar to be discovered) went on to become one of the most iconic images of the post-punk era — not to mention what would have to be the most popular band t-shirt of all time. Saville has done countless cool things since then, including launching SHOWStudio with Nick Knight in 2000, becoming Creative Director of Manchester City, and collaborating with Lacoste for their 80th anniversary.

"Good music and interesting bands have always come from Manchester, but Factory provided the opportunity for them to be 'of' Manchester. In the seventies, pop was progressing into being a way of life — Factory cultivated and nurtured that. The narrow perception is that this time was only about music — it was about ideas, [and] the Hacienda epitomised pop as a way of life. It being the first industrial club resurrected from the DNA of the first industrial city is the memory I cherish most. 

"The role of Creative Director of Manchester would have been inconceivable 20 years ago, because the awareness of place as 'brand' is very recent. The project is largely about perception and how it's shaped. I believe that it is what a place does rather than what it says that matters. A city communicates through the news that it makes, and the challenge has been to influence that. 

"I'd describe my design work as reductive, with a concern for making timely interventions that are hopefully pertinent. [But] what matters changes with time — one's particular interests and points of reference evolve. In the early work I wanted to change the world; these days I am more inclined to react to the way it is. 

"Every work situation that arises is unique, so one's response has to be [unique] too. My relationship with Joy Division and New Order is like family, and that kind of closeness is sometimes good and sometimes not. A common wavelength develops with people you know. Which, of course, makes understanding one another easier. With Lacoste, there was no specific brief as such. Essentially it was about creating a way of recognising their past in the context of the present, and with a mind to their future. Obviously a company such as Lacoste means so many different things to so many people… 

"Am I a spiritual person? No, but I do like 'Spirit in the Sky' by Norman Greenbaum, and my favourite album at the moment is a recording of the world's oceans — it makes me feel like I'm at a beach somewhere."