Autumn 2003

A life in museum pieces [EXTRACT]

Designed by Peter Saville

Frieze/Princeton Architectural Press, £19.95, USD27.50

Peter Saville, we are told, is a legend.

He wears dressing gowns during interviews, keeps odd hours, is perhaps overly verbose, and has decidedly decadent taste in, er, everything. Saville comes from nowhere save, we’re told again and again, Roxy Music and Pioneers of Modern Typography, and spawned nothing except re-inventions of himself. Oddly, I was unaware of Saville’s ‘myth’ until I repeatedly read what a mythic existence he’d led, for the outlines of his life suggest nothing more or less than a relentlessly creative person given to some eccentricities and lapses of judgement. And that’s the problem with the otherwise very useful Designed by Peter Saville: it is often so entranced by its subject that it forgets about the readers – we need to be shown things, not only told them, and the rehashing of a supposed legend feels like the dinosaur treatment the Rolling Stones receive on VH1. If nothing else, this first monograph on Saville displays the spectrum of his career and proves that his designs are vibrant, brilliant, and utterly contemporary, yet in these pages he’s too frequently treated like a kind of pneumatically sealed museum piece . . .

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