Nice Things (2013 ed.)

This year's Christmas was a continuation & expansion of last: books about the design work of Vaughan Oliver and v23. Longtime readers will remember that last year Santa found a deluxe copy of This Rimy River, the catalogue for a 1994 exhibition of Oliver's work in Los Angeles. It's a stunning piece of design, but one of the details that distinguishes it from the trade edition is over-printing on the pages in bronze and gold, of a poem set in very large letters. Visually captivating, but the overprinting makes actually reading some of the text portions difficult (as the book's distributor accurately described it, "more painting than book"). So, we needed a copy of the trade edition as well. Not only did Santa find a copy in good nick (pun!), but one signed by Oliver and collaborators Chris Bigg and Paul McMenamin.

It came with a copy of Vaughan Oliver and v23 Poster Designs, a smaller softcover issued in an edition of 1,000 copies (this one also signed) in 2005.

And just to round things out, a copy of Rick Poynor's Vaughan Oliver - Visceral Pleasures, a well researched & beautifully designed account of Oliver's career. Lots of details about working with the various 4AD bands.

Flipping through these three books, and starting to read Poynor's, brings attention to the importance of Oliver's collaborations with photographers. His work alerted many (young) people for the first time to the creative opportunities & power of typography, but all of his designs also incorporated (& often started with) strong imagery. Several of the photographers he worked with commented on Oliver's creative struggle in being presented with an image (i.e. photo) that was sufficiently complete in itself that there was little room for him to work typographically.

One thing that didn't arrive before the 25th: the deluxe issue of Facing the Wrong Way, Martin Aston's recently published history of 4AD. Oliver and Bigg were responsible for creating the label's distinct aestehtic, and 4AD invested heavily in artwork, packaging and promotional items, beyond any strict business case for such expenditure: the art was as central to the label's vision as was the music.

The trade edition of Facing the Wrong Way (600 pages!) came out last fall, but the deluxe was delayed, presumably due to the additional production requirements: expanded to 800 pages, the publisher wisely decided to split it into two volumes, issued in a slipcase. Apparently it's en route, so we'll post some details & images when it's in hand.

Holiday's over, out to the studio to finish binding Metal Type..