The story of the iconic cover art for Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures

EDW Lynch of Laughing Squid says:

Graphic designer Peter Saville tells the fascinating story of the iconic cover art he created for the 1979 Joy Division album Unknown Pleasures. The intriguing graphic, which has turned up on everything from T-shirts to tattoos, is a data visualization of the signal emanating from the first pulsar to be observed by scientists. The video was directed by Eric Klotz & Volkert Besseling for the Visualized Conference, which takes place November 8 & 9 in New York City.

The story of the iconic cover art for Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures

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  1. is a data visualization of the signal emanating from the first pulsar to be observed by scientists.

    Now I like that iconic album cover even more than I already did.
    That pulsar was first called LGM-1 (as in Little Green Men), then it was given the more solemn designation PSR B1919+21.

  2. I have no shame in admitting that the cover was completely what convinced me to purchase this album way back then. It was just sitting there in the bin…calling me with that inscrutable design. Good stuff.

  3. Fantastic cover art for fantastic music. ‘Nuff said.

    Almost ’nuff. Does anyone have the citation of the article the original diagram appeared in?

  4. Am I the only person who works in radio astronomy and loves Joy Division? I hope not. 

    I once took the trouble of finding our library’s copy of the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy to see the original artwork.

    If you google “Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy”, you’ll see a lot of photos of that page of the encyclopedia in the image search.

  5. If you click on the background of this page, it takes you to state farm. That’s incredibly annoying.

  6. As an image from a black album of depressing music written by a depressed person about being depressed – a classic of affective culture – the graph looks like a measurement of relative emotional states. You can see most of the time it’s flatlining. Zero affect.

    If you think it suggests mania, you are looking at it upside down ;-)

    1. depressing music written by a depressed person about being depressed

      You say that like it’s a bad thing.

      (I don’t find it depressing, it was not written by Curtis alone, and it’s certainly not entirely about being depressed).

  7. He doesn’t even know what he’s talking about – this is an INTENSITY variation in time at a given frequency, not a frequency variation. Also, pulsars aren’t directly related to black holes although both kinds are terminal stages of evolution…

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