First off I’d like to apologise to Studio Parris Wakefield for taking my sweet time to get this post together. But at least I’ve timed this post with the day of it’s release.

If you have a Joy Division fan in your life then this release has been perfectly timed with Xmas gift time. Oh and the 20th Anniversary of Ian Curtis’ death.

The Deluxe edition (limited to 500 copies) is SOLD OUT but you can still order the standard edition which is limited to 5,000 copies.

There is some insight into the design process from SPW on their blog. Used here with permission.

We have been working on the design of the new Joy Division box set ‘+-’. Now we are able to share
with you the story behind the imagery.

In Peter Saville’s book ‘Estate 1-27′ Michael Bracewell describes Saville’s work with Factory Records and in particular Joy Division as the ‘…muniments of a crematorium in deep space.’ Thus inspiring Saville to look towards the infinite qualities of the universe to capture the essence of a collection of Joy Division singles.

Tasked with the brief of ‘deep space and nebulae’, Howard Wakefield researched through the collection of Nasa imagery at SpaceImages. While tempted with a nebula called Factory, its name was too good to be true, for it didn’t compare with the more expansive deep blue nebula of Hubble NGC 346 SMC. Peter Saville was keen to see how it could be transformed from being purely documentary, so suggested an inverted, monochrome version.

The Factory Nebula. This image was not used.

The actual NASA space image used aptly named Hubble NGC 346 SMC. Check out the official NASA press release of this image from 2005.

In addition to the compilations cover SPW were also tasked with recreating the covers of the 10 singles. But this was not as simple as it seems.

Of the 10 Joy Division singles, only 3 were ever released on 7 inch vinyl. There were 3 EPS, a flexi disc, a booklet, a 12 inch and even an LP. Compounding this, the artworks didn’t exist in a state that could be used anymore, so the only option was to scan the sleeves.

However, scanning was not possible as each sleeve would need to be cropped to allow for printer’s ‘bleed’, so Saville suggested a border. At which point Wakefield saw the potential of portraying the singles as, not only important musically, but important in the history of music design. The design was as influential as the music and they should be both represented as such. The design concept was agreed – they should be portrayed as pieces in a gallery.

The sleeves were photographed and presented as moments in music and design history, backed with caption-style text on the reverse, allowing the music and the original sleeves to be the stars…

Here are the 10 covers. I think the photography presentation of them actually makes them look better.

SPW also blogged about the origin of the + – (or Plus Minus if you are trying to Google it) which in itself reveals an interesting story about Teenbeat and their lawsuit/PR stunt against the record label.

Where did the title + – come from? What was the influence? In 1988, Factory Records released the Joy Division single ‘Atmosphere’ from the compilation ‘Substance’ – the inner sleeve showed a detail of ‘Plus en Min’ by Jan van Munster.

Naturally, in 2010, during the discussions over titling the forthcoming Joy Division compilation, we were drawn to the 1988 release as inspiration. Calling it ‘Substance’ was too close a title to the original release, however, titling it ‘+ -’ was an acknowledgement to the 1988 release as the newly remastered track list was the same.

As part of the Deluxe box set, Peter Saville was asked to create a piece for inclusion. Originally there was a notion that a new ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ metal plate be created, but the cost was too prohibitive. However a perspex interpretation of the + – was more appropriate as the glow edge referenced the + – image from 1988.

To replicate the orange glow, a choice of two colours were available – Lava Orange or Mars Red. For cost and timing issues, Mars Red was selected.

Regarding the recent Pitchfork story about Teenbeat (the label) and +- (the band) who are suing for trademark infringement and plagiarism. We find this very strange, as the band admit to being influenced by Joy Division. Yet they are comparing their artwork (2002 album +-) which clearly appears to be influenced by the 1988 Joy Division imagery. Is this a stunt? Enough said.

Sadly this is the + – cover is only available when you buy the deluxe edition.

And this is the cover from + – from Teen Beat records.

So Lava Orange is more expensive than Mars Red? Budget is something I think Jan van Munster has never had to worry about. His work is amazing while his website sucks. The + – motive is spread across a lot of his work. I really like the “Brainwave” series with the wobbly neon lights. This could have almost been a cover itself.

And lastly SPW also designed a poster for an event at Rough Trade this week. More info here.

Here is a promo video from Rhino on the compilation.

The entire package itself is an impressive piece although the standard of compilation packs/limited edition runs these days is very high. I’m reminded of the Pet Shop Boys “Yes” packaging. At least this one is only $100 and not $450!

Take a look at SPW’s other musical design work and take in just how influential they have been. It also doesn’t hurt that Peter Saville is so closely connected to them also.