Vaughan Oliver, Renowned Album Art Designer for Pixies & 4AD, Dies at 62

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Pixies "Doolittle"

Vaughan Oliver, the English graphic designer responsible for some of the most alluring indie rock album covers of the past 30 years, died Sunday morning at age 62.

The news was confirmed by Adrian Shaughnessy, who edited an extensive 2018 collection of Oliver's work. Wrote Shaughnessy: "Desperately sad to announce that Vaughan Oliver died peacefully today, with his partner Lee by his side. Great loss of friend and design hero."

Oliver rose to fame in the 1980s as the designer behind much of the album art for the acclaimed London indie label 4AD. Oliver took inspiration from surrealist icons like Salvador Dalí to craft striking LP designs for 4AD artists including Pixies, Cocteau Twins, The Breeders and others. His work is also familiar to fans of 2000s indie rock, as his more recent credits include TV on the Radio's 2006 LP Return to Cookie Mountain and Pixies' 21st-century albums, through 2019's Beneath the Eyrie.

After studying in Newcastle, England, a meeting with 4AD founder Ivo Watts-Russell sparked Oliver's long relationship with the label (he became its lone full-time employee in 1983). Oliver worked alongside photographer Nigel Grierson under the moniker 23 Envelope, designing for 4AD through 1987. Even after Grierson's departure, Oliver crafted the covers for Pixies' late '80s masterpieces Surfer Rosa (1988) and Doolittle (1989) -- arguably the most iconic works of his career.

"Vaughan Oliver taught me to appreciate quality," Watts-Russell wrote in a statement issued Sunday. "He taught me how to look at the physical world. He was a force of nature."

Read his full statement here.


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