FAC 461 is Factory Records: The Complete Graphic Album, by Matthew Robertson. It isn’t actually “complete”; an appendix lists 124 items not illustrated. What it also isn’t is consistent, or simply the work of Peter Saville.

The foundation of graphic design at Factory Records had two parts: Tony Wilson’s belief that quality should almost never be compromised and the simple rigour of numbering everything. The original poster for the first “Factory club” show was FAC 1; the first record was FAC 2. And not the other way around, because the poster came first. I was shocked at the consistency. They numbered the Haçienda (FAC51), displaying it in a granite panel.

Design rigour lets you do anything while knowing you are consistent. Just going right ahead and doing anything merely leaves you with unrelated objects. Aligning everything to a grid is high-order rigour; believing in the future and numbering everything you produce is low-order, and that’s all you need.

I thought a couple of things while reading the book. I don’t know how many years I’ve been struggling to get this business of rigour and standards across. Canada is simply the wrong place for it. We’re too goddamned mediocre. There are any number of explanations, but the truest is “Nobody wants to be corrected.” Do you think anybody will ever write a book about the graphic design of, say, Nettwerk Records? Factory did not waste money on design; it was “an investment in mystique.”

I thought: Isn’t Sheffield the new Manchester? Or am I the victim of Designers(’) Republic propaganda?

Design at, and the design of, Factory Records was not twee. It wasn’t artfags insisting that “design” means interior decoration or a darling little side table or Mummy’s china cabinet. It was design in the service of something else. It would take Peter Saville decades to angrily realize he had chosen a field that worked at odds with self-expression. It isn’t completely true, as he admits.

We’re going to have to come up with some other model than Factory Records’, because Tony Wilson is now dead (FAC ∞).

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2007.08.12 18:17. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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