Peter Saville's design for Fact 100 Low-life by New Order, released in 1985, is one of my favourite ever record covers. Though I wasn't aware of this at the time, the design quotes Josef Müller-Brockmann’s Der Film poster of 1960, it places subtle, understated typography, using the 1928 font 'Neuzeit', printed in two colours, black and silver, over stark black and white Polaroid images of the band taken by Trevor Key. The album is given a strong physical presence by Saville's use of heavyweight card for the album cover which has a wraparound (echoing Japanese 'Obi' strips) of tactile, tracing paper on which all of the typographic information, is printed. Saville's original intention had been for the paper to be discarded leaving only the four portraits of the band members, he said of the cover "Strip the whole lot away and what are you left with? Four people. Anything else is another conceit, another -ism."

For me, Low-life is the last great album cover that was designed specifically for the large canvas of the 12-inch vinyl format; the album was released on CD but its cover felt like a diminished version of the vinyl format. Though subsequent New Order releases saw the band reaching new musical highs, this cover represented a pinnacle, after which New Order's sleeves no longer appeared as objects with their own physical presence, but as record sleeves in a more prosaic sense: carriers of information that described the music inside rather than suggesting possibilities for how it might sound.




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