Vaughan Oliver died yesterday, he was 62 years old. I loved the man and his work very much. Only met him a few times and corresponded occasionally, but whenever I worked he was with me. And I’m going to stand in line now to offer my gratitude.
Vaughan elevated banality to mystery and poetry. He proved, to me at least, that graphic design could be many things and go anywhere, go to places mercantile designers never imagined even existed. He proved that the real value of graphic design was beyond the reach of the market. And that graphic design was wide and deep. He didn’t need anyone calling him an ‘artist’: “…I fucking hate that. I’m a graphic designer I’ll have you know!”
“It’s a very broad thing graphic design. personally, I really don’t understand the desire to be sterile… you know, I want to move people with my work, to make an impression – through graphic design.”
I once visited Vaughan at his Wandsworth studio in London where he was in the process of packing up to move because he couldn’t afford the rent. I just couldn’t believe it, what kind of industry was I working in that didn’t reward someone like Vaughan with fucking untold riches! I wasn’t that long out of university and this was an earth-shattering moment. I was angry and outraged on his behalf, while he was exasperated yet gracious as ever.
For music fans and many designers Vaughan Oliver made beautiful evocative images that often outshone the songs. For others, myself included, this was just the tip of the iceberg.
Jason Grant, 30 December 2019