University Dissertation 

The role of the designer within Factory Records




Introduction
Independence is a valuable asset to have as a business. Today we live in an age where mass corporations have the ability to amalgamate independent businesses in order to capture audiences for economic gain. Independent businesses have the opportunity to take risks and  provide a sense of dynamism into the world. This dissertation will explore the case of Factory Records,a Manchester-based independent record label formed in 1978 and defunct in 1992. The label sustained its independence, whilst also employing situationist values which challenged the sociocultural background of Britain, which everyone working for the label adhered to. The label evolved from being a traditional music label, into a pillar of British youth culture. It popularised the post-punk movement in 1970’s Britain, later opening Britains first super-club, The Haçienda in 1982. Factory Records employed a unique cataloguing system that listed everything contained under the label using the indicator FAC or FACT. This included; album releases, the super-club, promotional graphics, and film. This dissertation will consider the album artwork and promotional graphics produced for the label.

Many designers worked for the label, Factory Records can be considered a patron for its designers to pursue their personal style, rather than solely designing to meet a clients expectation. This dissertation will explore the work of two renowned design figures who worked for the label; graphic designer Peter Saville and the graphic design firm 8vo. It will explore and compare their distinctly different approaches to design. Saville is regarded for his contemporary yet luxurious album covers with no agenda of commerciality (Saville, 2010), for bands signed under the label, such as the British post-punk band Joy Division. 8vo took an analytical and considered approach, designing for another British post-punk band working under the label, The Durutti Column and also designing promotional material for The Haçienda (Appendix 1).

The autonomy of Factory arguably impacted the designers’ approach whilst working for the label. It created a unique circumstance, where defining the role of the graphic designer can be contested. The areas to define the graphic designer that this dissertation will investigate are; designer as the communicator, designer as the author and designer as artist. It will then explore how the designers’ role can be defined in these terms.

The role of the graphic communicator or communications designer is designing with the intent of a commercial audience, considering the provided information. The main intention of communications design is to convey information and motivate an audience to respond to a message. It is usually done to build a brand or move sales. Designing as the author is a term popularised in the 1990s in the context of graphic design. It considered the work of designers who had their own vision, rather than solely serving a client or commercial audience (Appendix 2). The term has received many interpretations and designers have sought to contextualise the term with a defined theory. This dissertation will discuss these different views and apply them to the designers working for Factory Records.

Interviews with designers working for the label have been conducted for this dissertation to gain insight into their view of Factory Records as well as the work they produced. An analysis of the Factory Records archive has been conducted to get a sense of the body of design work that was produced under the label.


1.1 The formation of Factory Records, Situationist construction
Factory Records was founded by Anthony Wilson (Tony Wilson) with Alan Erasmus, who  employed a creative team of record producer Martin Hannett and graphic designer Peter Saville. As the label grew prominent graphic designers such as; Mark Farrow, Trevor Johnson, Scott King, Barbara Kruger, and Central Station Design shaped the incoherent yet innovative look of the label, where the absence of discipline within the designs, inadvertently defined the label further (Appendix 3). The designs supported the pioneering music the label produced, from post-punk to the acid house movement by many renowned musical acts such as; New Order, The Durutti Column, Happy Mondays and Section 25.

Tony Wilson, was a post-punk impresario, heavily influenced by the situationist thought and operated the label more as a situationist construction, rather than a viable business. Situationism is a theory which states that changes in human behaviour are influenced by external situational factors rather than internal traits (Upton, 2009:103). Situationist International was a group formed in 1957 until 1972, consisting of artists, writers and, social critics. The group aimed to eliminate capitalism through the transformation of everyday life. Situationist International argued that a revolution would take place in everyday life, rather than the traditional site of economic change, due to the alienating effects of capitalism pervading modern society (Home, 1988:80).

Manchester throughout the 1970s did not have its own distinct indigenous pop music, there was a gap as the music culture had become commoditised with music that did not seem to have a sense of place (Factory 2009). Wilson encountered the situationist thought on June 4th, 1976, when the British punk band The Sex Pistols were performing in Manchester’s Free Trade Hall. He later stated that the basic philosophy for all the sleeve designs and music was based on what the bands lead singer, Sid Vicious said, that he was unconcerned about what the man in the street wanted when making music (Wilson, 2006). Wilson was inspired by the original music that was arriving in Britain and founded Factory Records in January 1978, with the vision not to be a business, but an engine for cultural reappropriation. He believed that situationism offered the only future revolution he could want, he applied this attitude to Factory Records, which transpired in the design and music produced under the label.

In 1979, Wilson was presented with a copy of Mémoires a book produced by the Situationist International de facto leader Guy Debord (Figure 1). The book featured an all sandpaper jacket that inspired the album cover for The Durutti Column’s, The Return of The Durutti Column which also featured a sandpaper cover (Figure 2). The album was was hand assembled, it was designed to damage and destroy other albums around it and the surface it was placed on. The approach behind the cover is a direct reflection of the situationist vision of Factory Records. They weren’t afraid to be an individual force with a disregard for capitalism. It is a reflection of the rough, anarchic and DIY values that post-punk music projected along with their creative freedom as an independent label. These ideologies carried on throughout the label’s operation, with designers working for the label employing them.


1.2 The Formation of Factory Records, design independence
Factory Records sustained its independence until it ceased operations. Independence was a great asset to have for the label and should be considered a great asset to have today as a  business. Today, multidisciplinary consultancies seek to acquire independent studios within design and advertising. This allows them to grow their operations and gives them an advantage in winning more business as they have the potential of completing tasks across a variety of skill sets at a faster pace. Figures from designer John Maeda’s design in Tech Report 2017 revealed that our 70 design firms have been acquired since 2004 with around 50% of acquisitions taking place in 2015 and 2016 with no signs of slowing down (Maeda, 2017:13). Accenture is a large consultancy utilising this, in 2017 the report revealed the firm announced a massive global acquisition plan, worth $1.8 billion (£1.4 billion), an analysis concluded proved that the majority of the share was spent in the advertising and design space (Consultancy.uk, 2017).

The main aim of these global enterprises is to capture mass audiences, with formulaic and sometimes unadventurous messages. The large-scale companies acquiring independent businesses prioritise economic growth, arguably subsiding the integrity and values of the business. Independent businesses remain free to take risks and attempt to challenge the narrowing options of design. Without independent designers, the visual landscape of design would greatly lack vitality and dynamism.

The emergence of graphic design as a self-aware practice became present in the 1960s, from renowned designers such as Ken Garland, Alan Fletcher and Robin Fior who;

“Sought independence and remained true to a vision of graphic design as meaningful communication with an artistic legacy and integrity all of its own” (Alison, 2004:6).
The graphic styles emerged from designers working for Factory owed an insignificant amount to the prescription of professional design during the time it was in operation. The label gave designers a means to cultivate their craft, producing work which challenged the mainstream and explored new grounds of design. It also had an intent, to get the new wave of music out to the work, designers had to balance this freedom of independence with and to bring attention towards the label. Since the music gained such popularity, their work was immediately perceived as being the leading edge of visual pop culture, yet they distanced themselves from the arguably mundane design business.

During an interview an in-house designer for Factory records, John Macklin explained that Factory’s independence meant that the only constraints he had to work within was the budget the label provided. Macklin states that nobody in Factory liked rules, this was completely out of character for surrounding businesses. When designing the album cover titled The Work of Martin Hannett (Figure 3), Macklin considered the audiences design expectations. Although there was an absence of discipline within the work produced by the designers, he states that everyone felt an obligation to the audiences preconceived assumptions of the daring and experimental designs that were outputted by the label. The album featured a straightforward use of photography, which Macklin commissioned Factory’s photographer Trevor Key to shoot (Macklin, 2017). The album cover features no informative text, just the designers concept in its pure, unedited form (Figure 3). It illustrates the freedom of creativity due to the labels independence, like much of the labels album designs. Factory Records was able to take risks, allowing the cover to appeal to an audience visually, rather than communicating who the music was by, it also trusted its audience that they would know it was an album produced by the label.  

The notion of independence is something that appeals to many designers, including Macklin as he believes it has made his work deep more personal and rewarding (Appendix 3). If the work was produced for a larger corporation that wasn’t independent, it causes people to ration their time and change a designers relationship to the work.

Since the 1960s there has also been concern within the design industry on the amount of graphic design that leans more towards an internal expression of the designer, rather than to communicate an effective message. It could be argued that Factory Records leant this way since the number of creative liberties it gave its designers. Herbert Spencers responded to the matter, stating that there were too many designers motivated not to solve real-world problems, but to self-promote for the approval of colleagues. Motivated by fashion rather than conviction and undermining the principles of 20th-century design (Spencer, 1964:21). Factory’s designers made the work with a more fashion-forward approach, rather than to solve a distinct problem, however, this inadvertently became a response to the socio-cultural state of Britain and a solution to the indistinct pop music of Manchester.

Independent designers during the 20th century experienced some challenges, the work produced by graphic designers such as Neville Brody or Vaughan Oliver began was perceived as oeuvre by many people (Poynor, 2004:42). The notion of style past the needs of the client became an issue for designers including Peter Saville, who primarily worked in an independent environment. Their work depended principally on its aesthetic qualities to make an impact, rather than communicating an effective message to an audience. Saville stated that after Factory, clients were not approaching him with design problems, although he says that was not on his agenda and that there are many other designers to undertake design problems (Saville 2013).

Factory’s independence was an invaluable asset to have for the label as it allowed designers to truly take risks and hone their personal craft. This excelled their career within the industry yet did come with some challenges as their work can sometimes be perceived solely for its aesthetic output rather than what it communicated. Designers have argued that there are a significant amount of people within the industry that are too concerned with self-expression, however, in the case of Factory, this worked effectively, as the designers self-expression appealed to the label’s audience.


2.2 The designer as author, the work of Peter Saville
Factory’s original graphic designer, Peter Saville can be considered an author of his work in many regards. Rock’s alternative model to the designer as the author makes the designers work easier to categorise if the original intent of the work is known. Exploring the renowned work Saville produced for the band Joy Division’s album Unknown Pleasures (1979) he states;

“This was the first and only time that the band gave me something that they’d like for a cover” (Saville, 2011)

the content provided was the iconic wave image of the first discovered radio pulsar. Here Saville acted as the designer as translator, he worked with the provided content to reach a new audience. Saville did this very effectively since the band did not want to come across as pop stars. Saville disregarded all of the typical associations of the pop album and stripped the cover back, with no title, harnessing a similar thought to the post-punk movement, subverting and disrupting the preexisting values.

Another album designed by Saville was for the band New Order’s single True Faith (1987) (Figure 5) he stated that the inspiration of the sleeve was drawn from real life;

“I was parking the car one night and a leaf drifted by the window and I thought, ‘That’s so beautiful’” (Saville, 2011).
Saville consulted photographer Trevor Key and they shot until it was Saville’s correct vision, where the leaf was the right shape he envisioned and looked like it was falling. This can categorise Saville’s role as the designer as performer, as he transforms and expresses the content through graphic devices. He contextualised his idea to create a visually provoking cover in its intended form.

Much of Saville’s recent work leans towards the designer as director. He has since contributed towards the fashion industry, for a collaboration with the sportswear brand Adidas
Y-3, he created a collection titled Meaningless Excitement (2014) and directed the project with his vision to use the mainstream to say something people felt, capturing the saturated backdrop of the present (Saville, 2014). Saville’s original vision was carried through after being supported by fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto and Adidas. The outcome produced was the manifestation of his original idea in which he was the sole director of the project (Figure 6).  
The Factory Poster was the first commissioned work for Saville whilst Factory was in its infancy, introducing a music event (Figure 6). The intent of the poster was to communicate a message, which was the date of the music event and to inform people what bands were playing. The striking colours printed in black, white and yellow were inspired by the UK’s nations car parks and the industrial symbolism paired with bold type has similar characteristics to graphic designer Jan Tschichold’s Die Neue Typography (1928). Much of Saville’s early work has similarities to the work of Italian designer Fortunato Depero [1892-1960] (Appendix 2). This early design communication style laid the foundations of Factory’s design programme (Robertson, 2006:19), the style complemented the bold, unapologetic and industrial post-punk movement and became a means of communication that fans of the label would recognise. On designing to communicate a message and the notion of authorship, Saville says;
“Communications design is the design of communications, unless of course, you find you are doing your own communication. Then you’re being an author” (Saville, 2006)
In this regard Saville considers himself not acting as an author for The Factory Poster as it was communicating a message for the label, however, he can be considered the author for the album cover True Faith since he communicated his own idea throughout the process.

During an interview with Poynor, he states that Saville was from an earlier generation before the notion of the graphic author became a popularised term with the industry. The considerations of Saville’s approach to work whilst designing for Factory is a retrospective thought. Poynor states that he had a great talent for designing something that could become fashionable next week, his work had the power to grab people and take on a new form. Saville has a great way of talking about his work retrospectively (Appendix 2). It was not until 2001 that the term designer as the author became popularised within Britain when the renowned UK based design magazine Creative Review published Poynor’s article titled Questions of Authorship that British designers began acknowledging the term (Poynor, 2001). Prior to the publication, the figures advocating the term were by people such as Rock and Bruce Mau, both outside of the scope of British graphic design. The unique autonomy of Factory Saville’s role whilst working for the label can be difficult to define in Poynors terms since it is reliant on the designers retrospective view of his intention of the work. Saville acted as the author of some of the work such as True Faith, yet appropriated other content for the cover of Unknown Pleasures and The Factory Poster. Saville’s work for Factory does not coherently fit into Poynor's term of defining the designer as author, however much of his later work for the Meaningless Excitement collection can regard him as authoring the content. Saville notes that he saw a convergence of many disciplines whilst still a student in 1975;

Design, art, fashion, performance and many more all became one entity. (Appendix 4)

there is a conflict between how Saville is perceived today; as a designer or artist. He states that the work he did for Factory should not be regarded as art, since somebody wanted him to produce the work, if Factory had not have existed as a label then the designs work would not exist, whereas he considers art as something nobody has an existing desire for. BBC’s arts editor, William Gompertz argues that the same can be said for commissioned renaissance paintings, much of which is regarded as art today (Appendix 4). Sociologist Jean-François Lyotard (1924-1998) debates the question of graphic art being a form of art stating that it is an object of circumstances and consequently ephemeral, unlike art it is inseparable from what it promotes (Lyotard, 1997:33). John Macklin states that Tony Wilson described the designers who worked with Factory as artists, that there was no difference between high and popular culture (Appendix 3).

The work produced by Saville for the label created a tremendous social influence and embedded design, culture and his unique approach to the sensibilities of a generation in Britain. As a result, the work is sometimes classed as art, as there has been commissioned works regarded as art in the past. Saville’s early work can such as The Factory Poster be regarded as a form of communication which brought awareness to the label, Rock’s alternative model can be applied to his work, although the notion of authorship is a retrospective thought, the initial intention of Saville’s work was not to design as an author but his response to the socio-cultural state of Britain.


3.1. The designer as the communicator, defining the designer as the communicator
Thee designers that worked for Factory Records are renowned for their cutting-edge work that communicated a message to a generation of people living in Britain. This ultimately led to Factory becoming one of Britains leading independent record labels, becoming a pillar of British youth culture and The Haçienda becoming one on the UK’s first super clubs. The designers working under the label had a sometimes uncertain responsibility to undertake, balancing the freedom the label gave them with the underlying need to sell records and promote events.

John Macklin states that for effective communications design, the designer must fully understand and share the client’s ambitions in order to not result in a conflict of interest. Both the client’s ambition and designers intention need to be aiming for the right destination in order for the original message to be communicated most effectively. Macklin says that this functioned well at Factory and the designers intention almost always aligned with the client’s ambition (Appendix 3). Graphic Designer Hamish Muir, a graphic designer for the design firm 8vo for Factory agrees with Macklin, also suggesting that the ambition of the designer was considered highly. Stating the label acting as a patron to its designers stating; that Factory’s attitude was unique and refreshing; the label realised they would get better work if they didn’t dictate (Appendix 1).

Designing to communicate a message is sometimes regarded as being most effective when there are set outlines, an analytical intent and a problem to solve. It is said there should be no existing intent for the designer before the brief, rather listen to the needs of the client. Graphic designer Frederick Henri Kay Henrion called for the need for designers with clear, analytical and methodical minds (Henrion, 1962:8). The following year graphic designers Fletcher, Forbes, and Gill published their opinion on communication design

“Our thesis is that any one visual problem has an infinite number of solutions; that many of them are valid; that solutions ought to derive from the subject matter; that the designer should therefore have no preconceived graphic style” (Fletcher, Forbes, Gill, 1963:5).
In 2012 Ken Garland stated that designers must acquire a rational method and be prepared to test their subjective concepts against observable facts (Garland, 2012:9).

These statements contradict the way that Factory Records operated since it gave designers a great responsibility in the way they approached work. Macklin says he doesn’t remember ever being briefed and the only feedback he received was somebody’s opinion after his work was published (Appendix 3). Although the designers acknowledged the need to communicate a message for an audience. Muir of 8vo says one had a responsibility to the audience not only in terms of giving information on behalf of someone else but for their own need; to create a strong type as image series for the label (Appendix 1). 8vo’s intent was to project their attitude of design, using the message provided by Factory as a canvas of their work.

An example of this can be found in 8vo’s work for The Haçienda’s 7th-anniversary poster (1989). Muir states that the colours and form of the Haç 7 poster were a kind of take on acid house, a subgenre of music typically associated with fluorescent colours, which would’ve appealed to the audience who liked the music genre, however main driving force for the poster was to do something they hadn’t done before (Appendix 1). They produced the poster with a type and colour palette that contrasted what they had previously worked with, in order to improve their own style (Figure 7). Muir added that one usually strives to make work that isn’t wrong for the context arguing if it moves to for the other way, complying only with needs of the client:

“it usually ends up in the middle-of-the-road, safety-first competency. Like 99.9% of graphic design today” (Appendix 1).
Designers working for Factory Records have an acclaimed body of work which sold records for the label and promoted events for The Haçienda. The work produced is inarguably an effective means of visually communicating a message to an audience. The autonomy and values the label adhered to meant that in many cases the designers could transcend the brief, moving past the notion of designing exclusively for the clients need. Designers could create something which had much more than having a sole purpose of communication, creating original and unconventional visual techniques that appealed more widely to a generation of people living in Britain.

3.2. The designer as communicator, 8vo: The Durutti Column
8vo was founded by graphic designers; Mark Holt, Simon Johnston and Hamish Muir. The studio began working for the label in 1984. A large body of work produced by 8vo for Factory was for the band The Durutti Column. Upon working for Factory, Muir stated the label’s attitude towards designers was music was their Factory’s bag and graphics was theirs (Holt & Muir, 2005:155). 8vo’s approach to the labels incoherent yet renowned visual language was dissimilar to that of Saville’s. Whilst Saville’s work can be regarded as having a visually poetic connection to the music, 8vo’s approach was direct and heavily engineered, with the visual elements echoing the structure and connection of the music.

In 1986 the studio was tasked to design an album for The Durutti Columns album Circuses and Bread (Figure 8), however, they were provided with very limited information;

with no brief, proofs or anyway of contacting the pinter” (Holt & Muir, 2005:28).

Their response to this was to ‘make art’. The studio collaged paper, tape, photocopies and hand drawn elements (Holt & Muir, 2005:28). This demonstrates the flexibility of the studio since they did not need to work within the parameters of a set brief. The job they completed became a model for their approach to work; using distinct layering techniques. Johnston of 8vo states that they were believers in design as a very pragmatic process, allowing the parameters of content, client, budget, and timetable to be motivators in the design process. Much of 8vo’s work is an analytical process of acknowledging the designs they have produced, and considering what can be changed.

8vo’s way of thinking is more comparable to the analytical and methodical propositions of design stated by Henrion, Fletcher, Forbes, Gill or Garland. The studio had an interest in the aesthetic disciplines of design systems. Their stance was that maintaining the integrity of typographic information systems across the various formats was as important as designing the front cover (Holt & Muir, 2005:155). Johnston explains that the form of expression in design is a by-product of the process, rather than self-expression being the goal. Their outlook explains that DEsign, signs of, about and on behalf of something whereas MEsign, signs of or about the designer. MEsign in this sense is similar to the misinterpretations of Michael Rock’s alternative model to the designer as author illustrated by Shaughnessy as high minded notions of personal expression. Johnston states that the;

“sublimation of the ego is a necessary component in the employed, motivated, social transaction that is design communication” (Johnston, 2005:49).
8vo applied this methodology and personal agenda to Factory Records. The firm accompanied Factory’s independent presence with their structured design systems.

The firm was commissioned to design The Durutti Column’s album The Guitar and other Machines (Figure 9), building on the layering collage approach established in the first album they designed, on a larger scale. Tony Wilson suggested that the studio should work with photographer Trevor Key, however, upon shooting the photographs, the studio didn’t use most of the material provided and instead drove their initial idea. The studio stated that this was a case of art first, money second (Muir, 2005:121). The studios personal intent outweighed that of the Tony Wilson, however it was still an effective means of communication which built on 8vo’s personal approach. The technical composition of the cover draws focus on towards the collage, hand-drawn type and layering effects. The cover presents itself as an advancement of the style from the first album produced by the band, which demonstrates how 8vo used Factory as a means to develop their personal style and adhere to their own agenda first, before that of the labels. The flexibility and independence of the label gave 8vo a justification to advance their own style, whilst using the album cover as a means to base their work off. This is something that would be very unlikely among studios and labels that are not independent, meaning the designer has more of a  privilege to design work for personal intent over other businesses which are not independent.

Vini Reilly is the name of the third album cover 8vo was commissioned to design for The Durutti Column incorporating a specific portrait of the leader of the group (Figure 10). During this time 8vo’s approach had evolved and the studio was becoming renowned for their experimental typographic work. 8vo’s response to the commission was to downsize the portrait of Reilly. Stating that they didn’t want to sacrifice their art direction, they instead wanted to develop the layering theme they had established through the previous sleeves for the band (Muir, 2005:155). The studio states that there was an expectation by the label for the designers to make ‘art’, 8vo saw the development of a layering process as their art. This conflicted with the label in this case since the album releases were becoming more acknowledged for the artwork by 8vo rather than the music of The Durutti Column. Tony Wilson is quoted as saying;
“The problem with 8vo is that they are bigger than the music” (Muir, 2005:155).  
The album design was not finalised, since the band expected the portrait to be much bigger so that the audience would acknowledge the band initially. Muir explains that it was never their intention to be in the position of being more renowned than the artist producing the work, stating that they weren’t wilfully trying to out art the band, just to do good work in response to the no brief commissions. He states;

“That of course raises very interesting questions about what you do, how you approach work, when there is no brief” (Appendix 1).
He says that what they designed is remembered probably for the work itself rather than what it communicated, he says that 8vo saw the Factory commissions as an opportunity to experiment and push their work forward, since there was never a brief from them anyway. Factory Records trusted their designers and didn’t want to meddle (Appendix 1).

This creates a unique case for 8vo, where the work began as a means to communicate a message, however, transitioned into a form of artwork that some people bought over the music. Johnston states that graphic design is commonly discussed in the terms of what is visual, which he calls the ‘husk’ of the work, he argues there is a danger the notion of style is too commonly discussed. He continues that all their designs were alive as a piece of active communication, (Johnston, 2005:40) similar to the theory proposed by Lyotard. A sense of context helps the understanding of whats designed and puts life back into the ‘husks’ so should not be disregarded, as with context, it helps to see the design in perspective. The use of design is always put into context yet what it evolves into is out of the control of the designer.

8vo can be regarded as communicator designers for Factory Records, however, they were able to apply their own personal approach whilst designing for the label. The autonomy of the label allowed the work of the designer and music artists to work in a harmonic composition. This as a result, made what was communicated transition into a form of artistry where people bought the album for the visual composition rather than the music itself. In this regard, it is similar to the work of Saville being questioned as art by Gompertz.


Conclusion
The values Factory adhered to and its sustained independence is a large contributing factor as to why the largely renowned work by designers such as Peter Saville, 8vo, Macklin and more was made possible. If a label or studio stays small it can become unsuccessful when competing against larger corporate clients that require more intensive support, however, to expand would require them to lose touch of the pleasurable aspects of being a designer, musician, producer or artist (Poynor, 2004:28). If the label was to expand and merge with a larger company that wasn’t independent it would’ve arguably not resulted in the label being regarded highly for its tremendous sociocultural impact with an extensive body of original work.

The independent, situationist values that the founder of the label, Wilson employed can be demonstrated visually from much of the work which also complimented the new music movements made popular in Britain by the label, from post-punk to acid house. Factory’s approach to design disregards what designers such as Henrion, Fletcher, Forbes, Gill or Garland proposed, that design is to communicate a message in a methodical, analytical way which predominantly considers the needs of the client. Designers instead weren’t given a brief and were able to transcend the needs of the label, refining their approach to work and produce what they desired.

The designers had an underlying intention for the label; to sell records, promote events and bring attention towards the label. However the values of the label meant that there was never a brief, and especially when designing album covers, designers were given an immense amount of freedom on what they wanted to create. Balancing this need with the creative freedom that they were given makes their role whilst working for the label unconventional.

Factory’s initial graphic designer, Peter Saville was given a significant amount of creative control. In the designs for New Order, much of his work when designing the sleeves were about his thoughts and ideas, which got carried through to production. Saville can be considered as designing as the author in many regards, however, the term has received many definitions and misinterpretations. Based on Rock’s alternative model Saville’s work can be categorised as designing as the performer and designing as the translator, whereas his later work outside of Factory can be can be considered as designing as the director. In Poynors terms, he cannot be coherently defined as an author since much of the work he has done involves direct appropriation. Saville’s early role for Factory can be considered as communications design as the intent was to draw attention and inform people of an event. There is also an understanding that much of Saville’s work can be regarded as art comparatively to commissioned renaissance art because of its significant sociocultural impact, although the question remains if the work can be considered as art since it is inseparable from what it promotes.

The graphic design firm 8vo and renowned for their considered, type-driven approach to graphic design, dissimilar to that of Saville’s. 8vo’s role within Factory Records can be as defined as communication designers, however, the work unintentionally transitioned into a form of artistry, with people buying the album for how it looked rather than the music itself.

Factory records gave designers unrestricted autonomy towards the work they could create, this made the role for the label vary between each designer or piece of work. The unique structure of Factory resulted in a groundbreaking body of work which surpassed the expectations of the client and spoke to a generation of people.


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