Peter Saville wins London Design Medal 2013

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Peter Saville

News: British graphic designer Peter Saville has tonight been named winner of this year's London Design Medal, and has declared: "Manchester is now the capital of the UK".

Saville, best known for his record covers for bands including Joy Division and New Order, will receive the medal at a ceremony on Wednesday at Lancaster House in the West End during the London Design Festival.

Born in Manchester in 1955, Saville studied graphic design at Manchester Polytechnic and made his name designing artwork for Factory Records in the same city. He moved to London in 1979, where his design consultancy clients included department store Selfridges, record label EMI and fashion houses such as Jil Sander, John Galliano, Christian Dior and Stella McCartney. He has been creative director of the City of Manchester since 2004.

London Design Festival chairman John Sorrell announced the award at the V&A museum tonight, when he introduced a conversation between Saville and journalist Paul Morley at the first session of the Global Design Forum.

In the conversation with Morley, Saville described his career as a 20-year meandering journey. "I've spent 20 years looking for a job," he said.

Saville also spoke about his work as creative director for Manchester, helping his home city forge a new post-industrial identity and coming up with the slogan "Original modern" to give a timeless spin on its history as the world's first industrial city.

"Manchester is the capital of the UK," he said, talking up the city's prospects. "London is no longer the capital of the UK. London has floated off to be a world city."

Talking about his early work for Factory Records in the early 1980s, he said: "It was nothing to do with the record and nothing to do with the title. It was just a feeling of the now. It was entirely about lifestyle, it was about making you feel better."

"In a limited, amateurish way, I was suggesting how I thought things could be," he said of his iconic record cover designs. "Not how record covers could be, but how the ephemera of everyday life could be. It might just as easily have been a bus ticket or a cinema ticket or a cigarette packet."

He added: "The culture of design we could perceive as young people in the 1970s or even in the early 1980s was very different from the way it is now. [Graphic art] was still a virtuous task, it was still a battle to raise standards. It was a challenge throughout the rest of the 1980s. The last recession was the watershed. The current culture is clued-in as to the power of applied imagery. Twenty-five years ago people talked about the logo-type, nowadays they talk about branding."

Paul Morley and Peter Saville at Global Design Forum
Paul Morley and Peter Saville at Global Design Forum

Explaining why he has never worked for mainstream brands, he said: "With communication design being a service, there haven't been many things I've wanted to serve. I wouldn't want to work with British Airways. I wouldn't actually want to make British Airways look better, because it's not genuine."

"Record covers are weird," he continued. "You can do great work for a mediocre record and no one talks about it. You can do mediocre work for a great record and everyone calls it iconic. The iconic label that much of my work has is because the records were fundamental to many people's lives."

"The worst time for me was the 1990s, because I was the last big thing, or one of the last big things. I defined the 1980s. It was a nightmare, I felt obsolete, I was very passé."

His reputation was later rehabilitated when a new generation of London design firms including Tomato and Fuel hailed him as a key inspiration. "My work was many people's - many designers and creative people's - first introduction to new ideas."

Today, Saville accepts he has himself become a brand. "There's so little meaning in the production of products today that people invite me to do what I want," he said of recent collaborations. "They invite me to be facetious about the medium itself," he said, recalling how he recently emblazoned the slogan "meaningless excitement" on a range of clothing for Yohji Yamamoto.

Now in its seventh year, the London Design Medal is awarded annually by a panel of judges to an individual for their contribution to design and London.

Previous winners include Marc Newson, Paul Smith, Zaha Hadid, Thomas Heatherwick and Ron Arad. Last year the accolade went to design duo El Ultimo Grito.

Read more about Peter Saville on Dezeen »
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  • Daniel Brown

    Congrats Peter!

  • dame_

    WOW, “The worst time for me was the 1990s, because I was the last big thing, or one of the last big things. I defined the 1980s”, this guy is the real life Ron Burgundy, he’s kind of a big deal.

  • ian

    No offence, but may I ask what memorable work Saville has created in recent years?

  • ANon

    Manchester. LOL.

  • justme

    “With communication design being a service, there haven’t been many things I’ve wanted to serve.” I think he suffers from ‘I am an artist’ so called Olafur Eliasson syndrome. Design is a dirty second class work, isn’t it, Mr. Saville? Typical purist pompous crap. When a well respected designer utters such unthoughtful unwise statement, it ultimately degrades his own contribution and standing in the design world.

  • Mark Youll

    Gutted I missed this. Was this interview filmed and if so do you have plans to show it here?

  • http://www.dezeen.com/ Dezeen Magazine

    Yes and yes! We hope to publish the movie soon. Marcus/Dezeen