Design Heroes – Peter Saville

Most Graphic Designers have their personal design heroes whose work has influenced and inspired them in their creative endeavors, there’s a whole industry devoted to it judging by the number of graphic designer monographs out there snapped up by an eager audience. When I started at University, the Neville Brody worship was on the wane and Duffy & Charles S Anderson where emerging as the idols that launched a million design graduate portfolios. By the time I had finished my degree, David Carson and Emigre were influencing the legions of professional designer wannabes.

My first professional work being in the music industry, the designers I looked up to tended to be those producing the look of music graphics, Art Chantry, Oliver Vaughan, Dirk Rudolph and of course Peter Saville’s album covers for Factory Records. Though I’ve never really followed his aesthetics of his austere style in my own designs, he’s been a big influence on how I approach and think about design. My favourite comments on design from Saville have been his opinion that a piece of design doesn’t need to be blatantly self evident – that the viewer should be given enough credence and respect to be able to grasp the function and concept of, say, a particular logo without the designer merely stooping to visual puns, I’m quoting out of memory here, but I believe he set the example of a stylish restaurant, people who would frequent such a restaurant would be able to grasp that it is a stylish, sophisticated, upmarket establishment by the designer using an informed choice of font that reflects that, rather than, say a pictogram of a plate, knife and fork to represent it. Unfortunately, for every informed comment he makes, there seems to be an equal amount of gibberish and self posturing. He skirts dangerously close to that precipice that separates a designer from an ‘artist’ and has often commented that he never really wanted to be a designer and merely became one by circumstance (we should all be so lucky with those circumstances!)

He’s left a lasting legacy on album cover design and visual communication in general. You can find a good biography on him here on Wikipedia.