Album Sleeve Art – 10 Inspiring Designs by Peter Saville

Peter Saville is a British graphic designer whose work has graced many with beautiful album sleeve art. He’s well known for being the primary design voice of the influential Manchester label Factory Records, though his work certainly doesn’t stop there—he designed mainstream releases for Peter Gabriel, Wham! and Duran Duran as well.

He was inspired by punk designer Malcolm Garret, several subversive typographers and well known modernist painters. His work often re-appropriates other works (typographic sets, photos, paintings), combine it with other work or his own ideas, which would completely change its original context. His work stood out in a sea of schmaltzy, cheesy and homogenous album covers in the 70s, 80s and beyond. Let’s take a look.

 1. Martha and the Muffins – Echo Beach

Martha and the Muffins Album Sleeve

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This single’s cover is pure, blissful cartography. The colors evoke a sandy, out-of-the-way beach area and the actual geography gives the impression that this beach is something exotic to the point of being otherworldly. The type is set in a subtle and tasteful way that mimics traditional maps but still works perfectly for a record sleeve. The song is about escaping from a humdrum life to a figurative beach, and this cover conveys that message perfectly.

2. Brian Eno/David Byrne – My Life in the Bush of Ghosts

Brian Eno/David Byrne Album Sleeve

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This landmark album by Eno and Byrne heavily incorporated samples to a ghostly, startling effect. The sampled voices are like phantoms hovering over Eno and Byrne’s music, and the cover seems to present three prominent-but-abstract ghosts floating over a hazy landscape. The colors are watered down and washed out at points, and are completely dominated by the ghostly figures. Again, Saville was in top form.

3. Ultravox – We Came to Dance

Ultravox Album Sleeve

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This wasn’t a Factory release, but it came out of Saville’s studio anyway. This one is a pretty simple affair, but that’s why it works on so many levels. That mountain range, with its jagged whites, greys and blacks is a beautiful piece of design that breaks up the blue background in just the right way. There’s also some real energy here despite the muted colors and serene image, and that’s thanks to the lightning-bolt-like lines of the mountain itself.

4. Electronic – Getting Away with It

Electronic Album Sleeve

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Electronic was a super group comprised of The Smiths’ Johnny Marr, New Order’s Bernard Sumner and the Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant. This single sleeve is also a superstar effort from Saville. The black background is a great showcase for the designer’s own reworking of a simple stock photo and text rendered in sentence case. The whiskey looks elegant and decadent, but its true nature makes those feelings questionable. Simple, mysterious and vaguely untrustworthy—what a great design.

5. The Dream Academy – The Love Parade

The Dream Academy Album Sleeve

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Upon first glance, this is just a brilliant rendering of some kind of flower. When coupled with the song though, it takes on another meaning. ‘The Love Parade’ is about adultery, which hits home when you consider the fleeting and fertile nature of a beautiful flower. From a purely design standpoint, this single cover is remarkable. The flower’s two colors are vibrant without being garish, the typeface is perfect and the use of that weathered-looking negative space is brilliant.

6. Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures

Joy Division Album Sleeve

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We can’t discuss Peter Saville without showing some of the work he did for Joy Division, one of Factory’s most-beloved bands. The design is mysterious and looks like it could be anything, even though it’s vaguely sinister. It’s actually the frequency of the signal from a pulsar, which the band pulled out of the Cambridge Encylopedia of Astronomy and gave to Saville. He inverted the colors, worked his magic and came up with this haunting masterpiece.

7. New Order – Bizarre Love Triangle

New Order Album Sleeve

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We can’t have Peter Saville without Joy Division, and we can’t discuss Joy Division without discussing New Order. I’m not sure what Saville’s process was on the cover to this legendary single, but that’s part of the charm—any painter, designer or other visual artist can just look at it for hours and wonder how it was composed. It’s also warm, bouncy and strangely foreboding in a way.

8. OMD – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

OMD Album Sleeve

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This design is both minimalistic and super-modern. It’s also timeless—I could easily see a lot of modern electronic or indie pop bands using something very similar for a 2012 or 2013 release. This particular variant comes from the 4th pressing of the record, but this color combination is my favorite out of any of them. This is just like drawing a perfect circle—there’s no better way to demonstrate your talent than to produce something like this.

9. A Factory Sample

A Factory Sample Album Sleeve

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This was the first release that Factory ever put out, so it’s only appropriate that we include it in this showcase. The design is, of course, the selling point—industrial blacks and greys show a factory worker listening to headphones atop 3 bold lines and simple typeset. Its asymmetry looks fantastic and really highlights all of its basic elements. The presentation is interesting, as well—it was printed on dyed rice paper and sealed inside of a flimsy plastic bag. Needless to say, it’s pretty rare to find one in good condition.

10. Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls – Dream Sequences

Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls Album Sleeve

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This is another little-known super group of sorts, and it’s a shame this design work lingers in obscurity. The cover itself is creepy and ethereal, with gloved hands obscuring the woman’s face. Other parts of the record sleeve show a sequence of such images which both reference the album title and the band’s name. The typeface, negative space and central image work together in perfect harmony. This design evokes a glamorous, dreamy despair that I’ve never quite found in any other album cover. ‘Dream Sequences’ is an undisputed, if under-appreciated, classic.

Written by Alice Jenkins

Alice Freriksen is the technical content writer since last 2 year. Alice Freriksen has written several blogs for SSLMatrix to help online business owners build and grow their stores. In her free time, she enjoys social media let her follow @twitter.

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