Typography, from record sleeve to headstone

Factory Records Palatine boxed set | Photo by @MPoitrenaud

In 1990, the independent, Manchester-based music label Factory, created and headed by Tony Wilson, released a four-piece boxed set featuring its major artists such as New Order, Joy Division, the Happy Mondays, OMD, James and many more. Typography and graphic design always were of prime importance at Factory. The typeface used for the sleek, uncluttered cover design was Factis 90, a font based on the Sans Serif version of Otl Aicher’s Rotis, which had been published two years before.

Rotis was quite innovative at the time, and has since been used by many firms or organisations for their brand identity. Based on my own experience, I think Rotis features some of the most beautifully designed letters taken individually (i.e. a, e, p, b) but does not really work for paragraphs or as a fully fledged typeface, as stated by type designer and author Erik Spiekermann.


Anyway, the Rotis/Factis version used by Factory, and the overall Palatine design owed to John Macklin worked very well, as did the new factory logo designed by Julian Morey. It perfectly matched Factory’s minimal approach and refined style created over the years under the artistic direction of Peter Saville.

Factory Typeface CD Palatine

In 2010, three years after Tony Wilson’s death, Peter Saville and Factory-era associate Ben Kelly designed his headstone. The clean and modernist memorial may look a little bit like a stationery product or even a giant business card, but it definitely looks great, particularly thanks to the use of the right layout and typographical elements.

Cemeteries would probably look less bleak with such well-designed gravestones…

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