Vaughan Oliver, Graphic Designer For 4AD, Dead At 62

British artist Vaughan Oliver has died at 62. The celebrated graphic designer was best known in the music world for his work with 4AD. Over the years, especially in the ’80s and ’90s, he designed album covers for many artists on the label’s roster.

Oliver graduated from Newcastle-upon-Tyne Polytechnic and moved to London where he started the design studio 23 Envelope with photographer and filmmaker Nigel Grierson. Together they would shape 4AD’s distinct aesthetic. He was the label’s first employee, hired by founder Ivo Watts-Russell, and his first design for them was for the Modern English single “Gathering Dust” in 1980.

He would go on to design album covers for Cocteau Twins, the Breeders, Lush, Dead Can Dance, Mojave 3, Throwing Muses, and many more. He was the Pixies’ artistic director, and designed the iconic covers for Surfer Rosa and Doolittle, as well as all their other albums. He was also behind the covers for TV On The Radio’s Return To Cookie Mountain, Bush’s Razorblade Suitcase, the Mountain Goats’ Tallahassee, David Lynch’s Crazy Clown Time, and many more.

“We are incredibly sad to learn of the passing of Vaughan Oliver; there was no-one else like him,” 4AD said in a statement. “Without Vaughan, 4AD would not be 4AD and it’s no understatement to say that his style also helped to shape graphic design in the late-20th century.”

An archive of his work was published last year.

4AD founder Ivo Watts-Russell shared a statement on his passing:

Vaughan Oliver taught me to appreciate quality. He taught me how to look at the physical world. He was a force of nature and I’m having such a hard time processing this.

I have no idea how to define in a few words the enormous impact he had on my life. Two Virgos with a tendency toward being controlling we somehow managed to compliment and bolster each other in our mission to transcend mediocrity. The breadth and scale of work is incomparable, continuously fanned by the inspiration a new collaboration would bring. I’m aware that we each considered the other a bit of an enigma, a contradiction to our own personalities, and I also know that our mutual respect for each other remained intact.

We had drifted apart having less frequent contact as the years passed and I moved to the States. This last year, aware of an unrelated but serious illness gave me cause to bully my way back into his life a little. I was scared for him then so found myself participating in more genuine, heartfelt, conversation than we’d been used to working side by side for years. So some things were said.. words of affection, admiration and eternal gratitude.. that might just have been left unspoken. For this I’m grateful. But I’m so angry that, having made a full recovery, he was still taken. And, of course, I want to have just one more conversation.

It is rare to think of someone in one’s life and know that with absolute certainty that the course of both our lives were irrevocably changed for the better as a result. The results, the fruit, is available for all to see.. in pictures at least.

Vaughan William Oliver, quite simply.. thank you for the beauty, the friendship, the work and the madness.

Other artists have also shared tributes: