Watch an interview with graphic designer Peter Saville, the man behind the iconic album cover.

Next month, New York’s Visualized conference examines stories “at the intersection of big data, storytelling and design.” As part of the conference, Visualized interviewed Saville about the genesis of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures cover.

Saville created cover art for New Order, Roxy Music, Pulp, and others from the era, but Unknown Pleasures is his most well-known work. He says that Joy Division came to him with the original image, which they found in the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy.

The image is a “comparative path demonstration of frequency from a signal of a pulsar,” the first such pulsating star observed. “What you’re seeing is a comparative chart of the frequency and the accuracy of this signal.”

The Creators Project summarizes it succinctly: “So this image, perceived as so simple, is not really simple at all but the result of astronomical readings that led in part to humanity’s understanding of this one component of the cosmos. Heavy. Who knew Joy Division had a penchant for data visualization?”

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