Manchester original modern

The city that was once the cradle of the industrial revolution is relying on Peter Saville to redesign its identity, literally.Design Peter Saville. Text Stefano Casciani



In the vaporous slang of marketing, brand identity is a protean phrase that can refer to many things: the uniform of a stewardess, the suspenders of a CEO, the brands of liquor in a bar, and stationery, too – all the junk that companies, corporations, institutions and now even entire cities haul around in order to distinguish themselves in the chaos of the society of spectacle, which masks and muddies everything.
Therefore, Peter Saville must have been slightly perplexed when his hometown Manchester commissioned him to redesign its identity. An anarchic quick-change artist who rejects his every new appearance as soon as he adopts it (Saville designed record sleeves for cult bands such as Roxy Music and Pulp, then was a member of Pentagram, etcetera, etcetera), Saville has returned to his city’s 19th-century roots to invent a concept that would reinforce the pride of a community in a serious slump. Like many other cities, Manchester is slipping into decline for its ideological commitment to a welfare society.
And so Saville conceived of the slogan “Original Modern”, a title under which to write the design novel of New Manchester. A novel or maybe an entire saga, because redesigning the identity of such a complex place means designing not only graphic elements, as perfectly fitting as they may be, but also and especially, as Rachel Combie of Marketing Manchester affirms, “to apply creativity and innovation to the physical regeneration of the city itself”. In other words, to consider the whole social, anthropological, ethical and architectural city-and-citizens as a holistic body upon which to intervene organically, in order to allow the entire community to return to a contemporary life that is worth living.

Original Modern “M”, the logo by Saville for the redesign of Manchester’s identity

The Be Original, Be Modern light installation under the Bridgewater Tunnel

Diagram of increased student performance. Manchester is investing £ 500 million in schooling

Linguistic composition of the city’s inhabitants. (diagrams taken from Manchester Forward, for which Saville is creative consultant)

JS Bach / Zaha Hadid Architects, performance by Piotr Anderszewski in the sound space designed by Zaha Hadid at the Manchester Art Gallery (photo © Joel Chester Fildes)

“Marina Abramovic Presents …”, group show of 14 perfomers at the Whitworth Art Gallery (photo © Joel Chester Fildes). All the events were part of the Manchester International festival programme 2009