All tracks were recorded at Pennine Sound Studios in Oldham on 14 December 1977. The recording sessions were self-financed by the band, on a budget of £400.
The cover has a black-and-white picture of a blond Hitler Youth member beating a drum, which was drawn by guitarist Bernard Sumner (called "Bernard Albrecht" on the poster sleeve) and the words "Joy! Division" printed in a blackletter font. The cover design, coupled with the nature of the band's name, fuelled controversy over whether the band had Nazi sympathies. When the EP was re-released on 12-inch vinyl, the original cover was replaced by artwork featuring scaffolding.
A 7" version of An Ideal for Living was released in June on the band's own Enigma label, which was sold out by September and was subsequently followed by a 12" version on 10 October on the band's own Anonymous Records label.
All four tracks were re-released on the 1988 singles compilation, Substance.