9 Mar 2008
The Memoirs of a Factory Designer 
Phill Pennington designed several key Factory Records pieces whilst working at Peter Saville Associates.

He talks exclusively to Cerysmatic Factory about this intriguing time in the development of Factory:

"I designed the Factory logo which is simple factory symbol, initially with five other symbols for a poster to be used by Alan Erasmus in Moscow (FAC 126). My approach to designing the symbols was inspired by the well known Isotype system designed by Otto Neurath and Gerd Arntz in the 1920s.

The factory symbol went through several variations as I tried different proportions different numbers of roofs, windows, waves in the smoke and so on before arriving at what seemed to be the most minimal version possible. The symbol was not at the point intended to be the Factory logo, but as I mentioned, one of a set specifically designed for FAC 126. I did produce one other symbol a Christmas tree in the same style, which was used on a Factory Christmas card.

Confusion (FAC 93) was the only New Order sleeve I actually designed in its entirety. The idea came from seeing small colour registration letters on a type of printers proof known as a Chromalin. These letters were made of squares and printed in the basic 4 colours (CMYK) with the words overlapping in a confusing way, this seemed to tie in with the title, and I found that the words New Order and Confusion had the same number of characters (including the space).

So it was possible to overlap them in a confusing way. I wanted the finished piece to look like it was part of a spacecraft from some time in the future, sort of markings in the same way that military aircraft have markings, a piece of space wreckage from the future. To this end, my original version had the FAC number (93) made out of dots. It was Brett Wickens who decided that it should be in Gill.

I still feel it would have been stronger the other way. The sleeve was printed in four colour, plus four special colours, plus embossing. I think that they lost money on each copy produced, and the embossing was dropped after the original run, nobody talked about costs at the time.

I did also design a seven-inch version of the sleeve, which consisted of a set of different parts of the 12 inch cropped to seven inches. A full printer's proof was produced, but for some reason the sleeve was never used. The record label used a blown up sample of dot matrix letters (fairly new technology at the time).

I did the artwork for the follow up single, 'Thieves Like Us' (FAC 103), the numbers around the central image were taken from an Eighteenth Century board game which Peter had seen in a magazine (and which coincidentally turned out to be called 'the Jews game'), we decided to make them completely random and then wait for people to read some arcane or sinister message into them, which they did in the music press.

I designed the typography for the Factory boxed cassette series. The type arrangement is set in Bembo and is based on mathematical matrices. The most time-consuming part was Peter choosing the colours for the cloth bindings. I understand they were difficult for record shops to display.

I also designed, with Peter, the title sequence for the Channel Four series 'Play at Home', and a poster based on this, in our then new 'tech' style. We essentially had a computer animator record the process of constructing some titles then just used all the 'technical bits' which would normally would be edited out."

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Many thanks to Phill.

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Peter Saville colour wheel
A Certain Ratio

"Manchester, 1978. In the beginning there were four: Jez Kerr (bass), Martin Moscrop (guitar/trumpet), Peter Terrel (guitar/effects) and Simon Topping (vocals/trumpet). Four thin boys with a name borrowed from a Brian Eno record, the intense, drummerless quartet initially drew influence from Wire, Eno, the Velvets and Kraftwerk, and gained a manager in Anthony Wilson of Factory Records.

"May 1979 saw the release of their first ACR single, the dark All Night Party, although the sound and musicianship of the band would be transformed by the arrival of funky drummer Donald Johnson (DoJo) in August. Over the next few months the band gigged widely, often with Joy Division as part of Factory packages, and recorded demos with producer Martin Hannett as well as a Peel session. Their support slot with Talking Heads on their UK tour in December 1979 set David Byrne on a new course, and provided the compelling live half of their chic cassette package The Graveyard and the Ballroom. Post-punk, ACR now reflected the influence of Funkadelic, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, The Bar Kays and James Brown."

- intro to ACR Biography by James Nice (LTM)

The Durutti Column