Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New Order Cover Gallery

In their glory days in the 1980s, New Order were signed to the fabulously successful indie label Factory Precords, a label with a strong identity and aesthetic. No small part of that aesthetic was due to Peter Saville, who designed a good many Factory sleeves, including almost all of New Order's. Saville's specific design style is instantly recignisable, to the extent that New order's subsequent covers, released on a major label, are either miss-by-a-mile takes on Saville's style or disappointing in comparison.

The first five covers, one album and four singles, show the Seville aesthetic in embryonic form. Simple and clean, but a bit overly literal (it'll be rare after this to see titles on the covers). The album, Movement, takes excessive interest in its matrix number, FAC 50, both printing it in the centre and using the letters "F" (Factory) and "L" (50 in Roman numerals) as design. "Procession" (the second one) came out in a variety of distinct colour schemes. "Everything's Gone Green" (the fourth) was released in Belgium, where Factory had a subsidiary operation.

The central covers here employ a colour code system of Seville's own design, which by now seems merely quaint. The die-cut floppy disc cover of "Blue Monday" is meant to have cost Factory so much money that they made a loss on the wildly successful 12" release. Surely that can't be true, however. The simultaneous album, "Power, Corruption and Lies", uses the colour code alongside a romantic classic by Henri Fantin-Latour. It was recently reproduced as a UK postage stamp.

Peter Seville apparently disliked the single remix of "Sub-Culture" so much that he refused to design a cover for it. His two previous efforts, for the album "Low-Life" and the single "The Perfect Kiss", aren't overly impressive, though. "Low-Life" features distorted images of all four New order members, but drummer Stephen Morris is on the cover. The first one in this bunch, the Belgian "Murder" is described as the 'night' version to the 'daytime' of "Thieves Like Us" (previous group).

Leading toward the rather boring to-the-facts design for the "Substance" singles compilation is a decent series of abstract covers. The album "Brotherhood" bears a close-up of a piece of metal as its cover. Its two accompanying singles are... well, I have no idea what they are of.

As rave culture hit England at the turn of the decade, a taste for sometimes garish colours took over. The final Factory album "Technique" and its first two singles feature what looks like a pile of pills and two statues, each done up in vivid colour plans, that unfortunately seem more dated today than the timelessness of much of Saville's best work. "Touched by the Hand of God", with its oddly-cropped seashell picture, was from the soundtrack to the movie "Salvation!". Any doubts about the importance of Peter Saville can be put to rest by considering the modish cover given to the Factory soundtrack in comparison to the rather more hideous movie posters.

The last two Factory releases stand out... and perhaps not in a good way. "Run 2" is a curious take on laundry detergent packaging, I think, while the World Cup song "World in Motion" has a FIFA-inspired design that took New Order way closer to the mainstream than they'd previously been.


  1. 'Power, Corruption and Lies'...one of my all time favourite designs. Top marks to 'Low-Life' too, especially for the original vinyl package.

  2. Also might be worth including some Joy Division covers by the same designer. All classics of minimalism. Beautiful. Thanks for collecting these!

  3. I think this post is rather misleading as you reference the designer as 'Peter Seville'. Whereas his actual title is Peter Saville. http://www.petersaville.info. I thought it was worth noting in case anyone uses this website as reference to some work in a journal or for research purposes! A good collection of his works none-the-less!

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