Vaughan Oliver, the acclaimed English graphic designer who defined the aesthetics of a whole post-punk genre via his work for London imprint 4AD amd one of the few graphic designers with an instantly recognisable style has passed away.
Born in Segefield, Durham County to working class parents “the young Oliver spent most of his school days in the ‘art room’ where he developed an interest in Surrealism and the work of Salvador Dali. The local record shop was his ‘art gallery’” writes Vaughan Oliver Archive’s Kickstarter page.
“After studying graphic design at the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Polytechnic, he went south to London to work for one of the big design groups. But Oliver wasn’t made for the world of commercial graphic design, and a chance encounter with the record label owner Ivo Watts Russell led to a 30-year marriage between Oliver and the cult indie label, 4AD. ”
“I like to elevate the banal through surrealism,” he has said. “Mystery and ambiguity are important weapons in a designer’s arsenal. I try to make images where you don’t always get “the message” straight away – but these things leave a hook in you. Leaving some space for interpretation is important.”
His enigmatic visuals are his trademarks, a tribute of his to Roger Dean and Dali, who inspired him to follow the path of graphic design and mesmerize everyone.
Oliver was best known for his work with graphic design studios 23 Envelope and v23. Both studios maintained a close relationship with record label 4AD between 1982 and 1998 and were to give distinct visual identities for the 4AD releases by many bands, including Mojave 3, Lush, Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, The Breeders, This Mortal Coil, Pale Saints, Pixies, and Throwing Muses.
Oliver also designed record sleeves for such artists as David Sylvian, The Golden Palominos, and Bush.