Factory Records: The Complete Graphic Album
Thames and Hudson
The beauty of Factory Records: The Complete Graphic Album is that this well conceived publication not only comprehensively documents one most influential record labels to come out of UK, it also doubles up as a valuable resource for creatives too.
The book has been designed so that it captures the spirit and ambition of this seminal record label. Through a desire to create a holistic aesthetic for Factory, under which the music, visual identity and the physical experience (via the Hacienda) would complement each other, the label became, like Blue Note and 4AD, renowned for much more than a company merely releasing records. Factory became a (high) watermark for sophisticated modern musical culture.
This book demonstrates how this came about, highlighting how the collective grew the label’s – and there is no better word for it – brand through a disciplined creative approach to graphic design. Through creating a visual language that was both intellectual and playful in terms of its appropriation and influences, experimental, and, through consistent ouput, distinctive, Factory found themselves in the enviable position where you could recognise their product without having to read the label.
Factory’s ‘branding’ is best highlighted through their early releases and the attention to detail that saw it establish a set of design tools (sic. brand guidelines) , such as referencing each item produced with a unique code, adopting symbols etc, that were used on each release. The resulting clean, crisp design for packaging, posters and even stationary were rigourously stamped with the Factory brand. Later, as the book documents, the Factory inspired visuals become less dominant and different designers brought new approaches and techniques into the mix. But the paradigm for design remained the same – all the artwork had to embrace the innovative vision of the label and its roster of musical talent.
The second reason why this book is a must is the way it excites the reader about graphic design. The way it highlights and explains the basis of the design concepts for album covers and illustrates the strong body of work that makes up the Factory design archives, makes it a valuable resource rather than just another collectable publication. Like a toolbox, it offers invaluable insights into the approaches and production techiques used, such as referencing which designers influenced Peter Saville and co., the typography they selected and their magpie and carefree attitude to appropriation and juxposition. To prospective and established designers this is inspiring and useful material.