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Celebrate the work and legacy of Vaughan Oliver

The Sage Gateshead


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A drinks reception will be served from 5.15pm, prior to the lecture at 6pm.

The Vaughan Oliver Lecture will reflect on Vaughan’s early life in the North East, his approach to design practice, and his unrivalled influence as a graphic designer and educator.

Vaughan is a Northumbria alumnus and was one of the most influential British graphic designers of his generation. He is best known for his work with independent record label 4AD, and working with artists such as the Cocteau Twins, Pixies and The Breeders. His creativity inspired graphic designers as well as fashion designers, film directors, photographers and art directors and his unique approach to design attracted clients from a diverse range of organisations including Ballet Preljocaj, Sony, The Young Vic, John Galliano, Tyneside Cinema and film director David Lynch..

This lecture will also mark the introduction of The Vaughan Oliver Graphic Design Scholarships. A ten-year initiative, supported by 4AD in recognition of Vaughan’s extraordinary contribution to the label. These scholarships provide talented students from the North East, opportunity to study at Northumbria University, regardless of their social or economic circumstances, reflecting Vaughan’s own journey into the design world and his personal drive to help the future generations of designers.

Guest speakers:

Adrian Shaughnessy

Adrian Shaughnessy is a graphic designer, writer, publisher and educator. He has written, designed, edited, art directed and published numerous books on design. He is the author and publisher of Vaughan Oliver: Archive(Unit Editions). He has been interviewed on television and radio, and lectures extensively around the world. He is a tutor in graphic design at the Royal College of Art.

In 1988, Shaughnessy co-founded the design group Intro, an early pioneer of digital technology in design. He left in 2004 to set up the independent publishing company Unit Editions, in partnership with Tony Brook and Patricia Finnegan. To date the company has published over 50 titles (

In addition to writing for many of the leading design journals, Shaughnessy has also written for The Guardian, and is a regular contributor to the design blog, Design Observer. A book of his essays and journalism was published in 2013. For a few years, he hosted a weekly radio show, “Graphic design on The Radio”, on Resonance FM. 

Tim O’Donnell

Creative director Timothy O'Donnell moved from the United States to join Vaughan Oliver's v23 studio, where he spent 5 inspirational years. Since returning to his native New York, he has worked with MTV, Penguin Books, Johnson & Johnson, and HarperCollins, and is currently directing brand storytelling across Church & Dwight's global portfolio of brands, Though he has never stopped making his own work (or indulging his love for music packaging design), he increasingly spends his time leading teams of creatives across advertising, identity and packaging projects. He credits his time at v23 with his focus on building studio cultures based on curiousity, exploration, and inspiration.

Chris Bigg

Chris Bigg is an award-winning graphic designer.  His design journey started as a student in 1982 with a letter to Vaughan at (23Envelope) 4AD.  Vaughan generously responded to the letter, advising him and took Chris under his wing which led to an internship in 1984. 

Under Vaughan's guidance and teaching, Chris expanded his creativity and subsequently they worked together for almost 30 years for 4AD / V23. A unique close collaboration and friendship. As Chris reflected, "To this day Vaughan's attitude and creative force still guides my working process."






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The Sage Gateshead
Northern Rock Foundation Hall
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