It is with great sadness to report that Vaughan Oliver, graphic designer for the seminal 4AD label, has passed away at the age of 62.
Unlike most designers, Oliver was primarily inspired by album artwork during his early years, finding beauty and inspiration in record sleeves. He entered the field shortly after relocating to London, where he met 4AD head Ivo Watts Russell. As one half of the duo 23 Envelope, Oliver designed the artwork for nearly every label release, including classic sleeves by Dead Can Dance, Wolfgang Press, and Cocteau Twins. In 1987, 23 Envelope split, with Oliver remaining with the label under the newly branded v23 studio.
Oliver’s artwork, which often added a shroud of atmosphere and mystery, was instrumental to 4AD’s aesthetic, as important to the label’s identity as the music itself. Inspired by artists such as Salvador Dali and Francis Bacon, Oliver’s artwork often evoked a similarly surrealist tone. His sleeves were incredibly influential to an anti-image focused scene, encouraging bands to be different and explore their innermost curiosities. Much of Oliver’s best work has been collected in various physical formats over the years, including calendars and coffee table books, while a retrospective exhibit of his work was shown in Los Angeles in 1994. Outside of 4AD, Oliver also designed sleeves for artists such as David Sylvian and Bush.
Desperately sad to announce that Vaughan Oliver died peacefully today, with his partner Lee by his side. Great loss of friend and design hero. Vaughan Oliver (1957—2019.
— Adrian Shaughnessy (@AJWShaughnessy) December 29, 2019
As of this moment, the cause of death is unknown, but friend and fellow designer Adrian Shaughnessy has tweeted that he passed peacefully with his partner Lee by his side. We extend all our best to Oliver’s family and friends, and celebrate the loss of one of underground culture’s most inspirational figures. See below for some of our favorite pieces.