​Vaughan Oliver, 4AD's Album Art Designer, Dead at 62

He designed album covers for Pixies, the Breeders, Cocteau Twins, Scott Walker and more

Photo by Luca Giorietto

BY Sarah MurphyPublished Dec 30, 2019

Vaughan Oliver, the first employee of 4AD and the record label's in-house graphic designer, has passed away at 62.
He died on Sunday (December 29) with his partner Lee by his side, though no cause of death has been revealed.
Vaughan grew up in County Durham in England and attended Newcastle-upon-Tyne Polytechnic, where he studied graphic design. He moved to London in 1982 and became the first hire at 4AD.
Amongst his most famous album art designs are Doolittle and Surfer Rosa by Pixies, as well as Treasure by Cocteau Twins. He was also behind covers for This Mortal Coil, Throwing Muses, Lush, Pale Saints, TV on the Radio and Scott Walker.
Additionally, Oliver designed and directed work for commercial clients like the 2012 London Olympic Games, L'Oréal, Harrods, Microsoft and Sony.
4AD founder Ivo Watts-Russell shared a statement in tribute to Oliver. It reads:
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.
Read some of the other tributes to Oliver below.


Latest Coverage