Vaughan Oliver: Visceral Pleasures

Vaughan Oliver, designer and art director spoke yesterday at TYPO London of a career spanning 30 years in 30 minutes. Oliver is perhaps best known for (but certainly not limited to) his record cover work with various photographers under the names 23 Envelope and v23, producing iconic artwork for artists such as Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil, Lush, UVS, Pixies, The Breeders, Bush, TV on the Radio, Bon Iver, Zomby and more recently David Lynch.

photo © Gerhard Kassner


Oliver’s speech was filled with hilarious (and highly-Tweetable) quotes, including my favourites: “I was never caught with Michael Jackson under my arm”, “it ain’t art, don’t marginalise it” and the much re-tweeted “You know that feeling when you love a girl so much the only thing you want to do is to shave her hair off”.

Perhaps the quote that resonated most with me was this one: “(my work) isn’t art. It’s graphic design. Words and pictures. Visual communication”. This was a sentiment echoed through many of the speakers talks over the course of the day – the conversational and social power of design, as opposed to the one way broadcast of art or ‘traditional’ branding. And given the ‘Social’ theme of this year’s TYPO London, this statement feels very appropriate.

Vaughan Oliver

Vaughan Oliver is an art director, graphic designer and consultant with 32 years experience of working in most areas of graphic design. Specialising in work for the music industry, Oliver’s unique approach has attracted clients from a broader field including fashion, publishing, packaging, film and television, theatre, architecture, retail, advertising, food, dance, erotica, football and education. He has enjoyed numerous  international “solo” shows including Paris, Tokyo, Osaka, Los Angeles and Athens. “Vaughan Oliver: visceral pleasures”, a design monograph by Rick Poynor was published in November, 2000. Last year Vaughan was awarded an Honorary MA by the University of the Creative Arts (UCA) and a Visiting Professorship at The University of Greenwich.

By Paul Woods