Photography by: Storm Gunter and Aleks Paluszek
Words by Harry Potts
Peter Saville is an internationally renowned graphic designer and art director. He first made his mark as a graphic artist designing record sleeves for Manchester based Factory Records, which he co-founded in 1978 alongside Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus. Born in Hope Hospital, Eccles in 1955, Peter spent his formative years living in Hale.
Peter studied graphic design at Manchester Polytechnic from 1975 to 1978 and on graduating became involved in the music scene after meeting journalist and broadcaster Tony Wilson. Saville was subsequently commissioned to design the first Factory poster (FAC 1). He designed the record sleeve artwork for many of the Factory artists, most notably for Joy Division and New Order, as well as being responsible for the poster design for the Hacienda (FAC 51).
In 1979 Peter moved from Manchester to London and became art director of record label, DinDisc, creating a body of work for artists such as: Roxy Music, Wham!, OMD, Ultravox and Peter Gabriel. With the start of the new millennium, Peter reached his commercial peak with design consultancy clients such as Selfridges, EMI and fashion clients: John Galliano, Yohji Yamamoto, Christian Dior, Stella McCartney and Calvin Klein.
Peter received a CBE in the Queen’s 2020 New Year Honours list.
In 2004 Peter became Creative Director of the City of Manchester, playing a strategic role in the regeneration and cultural renaissance of the city. His talent and passion for Manchester helped define how the city presented itself to the world. He was the impetus behind the now established Manchester International Festival, a major influence in city’s cultural strategy and responsible for the re branding of the Metrolink tram system.
Peter chose 86, Palatine Rd, Didsbury for his ‘Greater Mancunians’ shoot. The upstairs flat of this suburban house was Factory Records first HQ. Tony Wilson along with Peter and Alan Erasmus hatched the idea of starting a record label to develop the city’s creative musical talent. These early endeavours would eventually lead to what we now recognise today as the Manchester Music Scene. The red brick Victorian building received a blue heritage plaque in 2017, an acknowledgement of its historical significance.
“Meeting Peter Saville was an absolute pleasure, he put us immediately at ease and was very patient and helpful during the shoot, relaxed enough to spark up a cigarette during the photography (bringing added character to many of the final images). My own creative ambitions are based around the concept of combining graphic design and photography, so it was interesting to chat with Peter to understand his approach to communication design and listen to his experiences of being a student himself. His advice was invaluable and has encouraged me to see design in a completely different light. It was a privilege to meet the man himself.”
“Meeting and shooting the legendary Peter Saville was a fabulous opportunity to photograph such a recognisable and experienced creative. I made the decision to approach the shoot using a prime lens, this would produce a narrow depth of field (f1.2) enabling me to isolate Peter against the brightly lit backgrounds. Direct sunlight can be unflattering, so I opted to shoot in shaded areas. One of my more successful images (the close B&W close up of Peter) was captured in the porch area using a reflector to bounce sunlight. This created a soft highlight on the face, combined with the narrow depth of field, to produce an eye-catching portrait. After the shoot we got the chance to chat with Peter about his extensive career and the challenges involved in becoming one of Britain’s greatest graphic designers.”
One of the key images from the shoot was used as the inspiration for a tribute to Peter Saville, painted in Withington Village by Manchester street artist Akse P19.
© All images – The Manchester College (unless otherwise stated)