Life, Death, and Design

Record label owner and “cultural catalyst”, Tony Wilson, died of cancer in August of 2007, but his headstone was late to his funeral. When it finally arrived at his Manchester, England resting place, a little more than three years later, it proved to be worth the wait.

The minimal, monolithic monument was a collaborative effort by Wilson’s long-time friends, and Factory Records (his label) designers, Peter Saville, and Ben Kelly. More than half a century ago, designer and architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe proclaimed, “Less is more”. Few designs since have embodied that maxim so gracefully.

The elegantly sparse, black granite obelisk bears a brief inscription, chosen by Wilson’s family, from The Manchester Man, an 1876 novel by G. Linnaeus Banks. The quote is set in the typeface Rotis, and reads:

Mutability is the epitaph of worlds. Change alone is changeless. People drop out of the history of a life as of a land, though their work or their influence remains.

Wilson’s marker is fittingly symbolic of a singular life; bold, unique, standing in stark contrast, yet reflecting surrounding textures of its environment, imbuing itself with greater depth, and beauty. Not a bad way to be remembered at all.

This is great design where it’s not expected – and it’s instantly appreciated. Here is an object of beauty, and function communicating both literally, and metaphorically, with impact, and resonance. Once experienced, it’s not easily forgotten. Such is the power of great design.

Photographs: Jan Chlebik

About Ken Peters

Chronically curious. Compulsively creative. Opinions here are my own, and those of the voices in my head.
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4 Responses to Life, Death, and Design

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  3. Cory Skaaren says:

    Thanks for posting it. Very cool. I wonder what Steve Jobs headstone looks like?

    • Ken Peters says:


      You may be onto something there; a book or blog showcasing headstones of famous folks. Paul Rand has an interesting marker. I know that Oscar Wilde’s marker recently made the news because it was just refurbished and cleaned from all of the lipstick marks that were on it (people kissed it).

      Morbid perhaps, but an interesting idea nonetheless to compile a portfolio of headstones. :-)