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DEsign Classics: Blue Monday 12" Single


Posted by Anna

For Boo&Stu's Design Classics posts we're taking a whistle-stop tour through some of our favourites from the worlds of graphic design, product design, architecture, popular culture and art. So here is my first choice as the second in our series...


I have chosen the 12" cover of New Order's Blue Monday on Factory Records, designed by Peter Saville.

Blue Monday 12" design classic cover image

about anna

Anna Celeste Watson is Boo&Stu's Web & Graphic Designer

Born in West Sussex and now living in Dorset, Anna graduated from Wimbledon School of Art in 2000 with a degree in Fine Art: Painting where she specialised in Film & Video. She worked as the Video Editor for Travel TV at Teddington Studios creating broadcast documentaries for Sky TV and online content, until 2001, when she developed an interest in creating websites. Anna then worked for 3 years as a Web Designer for Fresh Egg Ltd in Worthing (now listed in the Top 100 Digital Agencies) before going fully freelance, and in 2015 officially combined forces with her Graphic Designer partner Stu to form Boo&Stu.


Joy Division album cover image
Joy Division album cover image

Stu's the one with the record player who you'll often find lovingly cleaning his vinyl in the kitchen, but for me it has to be the 12" vinyl version of Blue Monday from 1983! Although I was only 3 or 4 years old when it was released and so didn't really discover the track until much later, the original version of Blue Monday (which incidentally is nearly 8 minutes long so around 3 times longer than a normal single, which was quite daring in itself) has become my favourite song of all time.


Like many of my generation I had much of my music when I was younger on mix cassette tapes (how old skool) so I also didn't discover the cover artwork until a lot later when I was an art student. It's great that vinyl is apparently enjoying a revival, I guess not just because of the sound quality, but because people are yearning for the artwork that you just don't get to experience with mp3 downloads.


Blue Monday became the biggest-selling 12-inch of all time, and apparently the 12" record itself is one of the most sought-after objects of its kind, most probably thanks to the cover design

The sleeve artwork obviously replicates a floppy disk. The designer Peter Saville had already created several iconic covers for the band's previous incarnation as Joy Division, and went on to create many more for them as New Order.

As a Designer using digital technology myself it's probably little surprise that this has to be on our Art & Design Classics list! Inspired by the technological sound of the music, Saville removed any mention of the band's name, label or title. The information was there but only as a series of colour blocks which listeners could only decipher using code printed on the back cover of the accompanying album Power, Corruption & Lies.

New Order album cover image
New Order album cover image

According to an article in The Guardian in 2013 entitled How we made: New Order's Gillian Gilbert and designer Peter Saville on Blue Monday:


"Peter Saville often confesses how disconnected his design could be from the actual personality of the band or music. And it is true that the New Order covers in general, and this one in particular, were created around the band a kind of mysterious and remote feeling; like if the band would refuse to appear and prefers to hide behind its music.


But in this case, this sleeve was ultimately appropriate to evocate the synthetic edge of the music, its relentless and mechanical rhythms (especially the famous intro done with an Oberheim DMX drum machine), and it participated into making this track not only a huge success, but also a major influence for the techno generation."


Saville himself says, "I'm pleased it's a legendary cover for what turned out to be a classic track: the principal moment of conversion between progressive rock and dance. Similarly, colour codes have become widespread in graphic design."


There is no doubt that Saville influenced a whole new generation of artists and designers alike, and I’m sure will continue to do so as new designers discover his work afresh.


You could argue that great music should speak for itself and not rely on visuals to sell it, but of course that’s the power of design – a great product should always be matched by great design and packaging. It can help to fire the imagination, engage with it’s audience and create identification with them in a whole different and more meaningful way, especially as it is often their first experience of that product... so better make it a good one!


About the Designer: Peter Saville

Peter Saville studied graphic design at Manchester Polytechnic from 1975 to 1978. He designed many record sleeves for Factory Records artists, most notably for Joy Division and New Order. Saville went on to create many more record sleeves in his unique Modernist style, producing work for artists such as King Crimson, Roxy Music, Duran Duran, Wham, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Ultravox and Peter Gabriel. In 1990 he joined the partner-owned design agency Pentagram and later the studio become known as "The Apartment", with clients including Smart Car. As a design consultant his clients have also included Selfridges, EMI and Pringle as well as fashion designers John Galliano, Christian Dior and Stella McCartney. Saville has often collaborated with longtime friend, fashion photographer Nick Knight. In 2004 Saville became Creative Director of the City of Manchester, as a consultant and in 2010 he even designed the England football team home shirt.

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