Malcolm Garrett studied typography at Reading University and then graphic design at Manchester Polytechnic in the late 70s. Whilst there he houseshared with college friend Peter Saville. It was in his second year that he started designing sleeves for The Buzzcocks. His work was revolutionary on many fronts: it’s strong abstract, colourful style; the graphical branding of an artist, and the use of all aspects of the sleeve in his design (even catalogue numbers became important and emphasized). His early work is rooted in pictograms and industrial hazards symbols.
Orgasm Addict was the Buzzcocks first single following the departure of Howard Devoto. The poster is an expanded version of the single sleeve with an in-your-face Linder Sterling collage tastefully typeset by Malcolm Garrett creating a brash punk statement. Buzzcocks guitarist/singer Pete Shelley said: ‘It’s exactly what you want for a record sleeve. As soon as you see it you can’t get the image out of your head. It was all pretty topshelf back in 1977’. Linder has explained how she made the collage ‘in a Salford bedroom, I had a sheet of glass, a scalpel and piles of women’s mags’ and that ‘the iron came from an Argos catalogue and the female torso came from a photographic magazine called Photo.
He was one of the most influential designers working for youth culture clients in the music business and style magazines in the 70s & 80s, he worked with Simple Minds, Duran Duran and Culture Club. The sleeves that Garrett designed for Duran Duran (from 1981 until 1986) include their first four albums (Duran Duran, Rio, Seven and the Ragged Tiger and Arena) and other singles such as “Planet Earth“, “Is There Something I Should Know?” and “The Reflex“. Later Garrett’s focus shifted in the direction of new technology and rather than working only on record covers he moved to broader work.
His definition of good design? “Does it do its job? It’s the only possible definition of good design. Did message A get communicated to audience B? There can’t be any other definition. If you don’t speak to an audience in a language it can understand then communication of a specific kind is unlikely to take place. This either means that you educate an audience in the nuances of your own personal language, or you explore the languages that exist, which can be efficient yet conceptually restrictive”.