I went along to the Vaughan Oliver (4AD, 23V) talk organised by LongLunch last week in Edinburgh and reacquainted myself with his back catalogue. I have followed and collected his work since 1984 when I was lucky enough to meet him while studying at GSA. I remember him saying that “typography is just another form of mark making”. That statement was all I needed to open up a new world of experimentation and personal expression. The process of researching forgotten fonts, photocopying them, cutting them out with a scalpel knife, positioning with spray mount and tidying up with typex, became addictive. Now I use the ubiquitous Adobe Illustrator for most of my typographic work, but in my mind I am still crafting the letterforms as before. When asked about his use of technology, Vaughan gave a frank reply lamenting the loss of the community that was interwoven into his process – the model makers, the photographers, the repro houses and that guy at the printers who would run an additional spot colour and a double hit of black (at 6.00am). Although it was a thrill to hear his laconic repartee, something inside of me wanted him to say that he was now a master of layers in Photoshop, could handle a digital DSLR or just give us an After Effects tip for the day. I wanted to know that my hero was having to keep up with the advances in CS6 like me – alas, no. Is he worried? Not a bit. He is a graphic designer (not an artist) who wants to communicate a feeling or an atmosphere by using his own visual language. It is a language where information works as illustration.
4AD/23 Envelope 1984 documentary HERE