Unknown Pleasures
Wednesday March 11th 2015, 11:11 pm
Filed under: inspirations,music,reading and writing


I’m questioning why I do what it is that I do. Right now, with less than 3 days till launch, QA on the project hardly started, clients breathing down our necks. Unformatted content still coming in from halfway across the world. And a studio barely scraping by.

I try to go back in my mind to remember those points in my life when I made the decision to keep hustling along this path, and not give in and try something else. Or at least get a 9 to 5. And I try to remember a work of graphic design that actually impacted my life. Added meaning. That answered the why instead of the what.

More often than not, I close my eyes and a vision emerges of white pulsar waves, floating in darkness. Peter Saville’s FAC-10, the design for Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures. It’s impossible to separate the tragic mythology of Joy Division from the matte black jacket, to separate the music from the image, or to separate my envy of Saville’s mythological playboy life from my own time spent in London, studying at LCP, my own tragic romance, now self-mythologized.

The actual story about the design is underwhelming. I remember my deep disappointment in discovering that Saville had designed the cover before even hearing the music, that he was handed the image of the pulsar radio waves by the band. Saville’s “genius” lay in his decisions to invert the colours, scale the illustration down, print it on a black, textured, stock, and to not include the name of the band, nor the album title. On their debut album. And with those simple decisions, he radically changed music artwork forever. In truly postmodern fashion, he denaturalized the object, made something be, in a way that it was not supposed to be.

And because of that, it reached me, across time and space. Joy Division existed for 4 years. I was barely a year old when Unknown Pleasures came out. And unlike most people, I came to discover their music through Saville’s design, much later in life, on advice from a friend, older and far wiser than myself. The music, the mythology, has become part of my life, part of the why. The opening bass line of Shadowplay still rips me apart each time I hear it. And I’m still waiting for the time to come when I’ll be able to design an album cover without a name.

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