A COUNTY Durham pop artist who has been hailed as one of the country's greatest album cover designers has died.

Vaughan Oliver, originally from Newton Aycliffe, spent his career designing album covers for the likes of the Pixies and the Cocteau Twins, becoming known as one of the most influential graphic artists of the day.

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He died on Sunday, aged 62, surrounded by his family.

Mr Oliver, who went to Ferryhill Grammar before taking up graphic design at Newcastle Polytechnic, got his first big break designing a label for Heinz baked beans.

The Northern Echo: This picture of Vaughan Oliver appeared in the Northern Echo in 1996This picture of Vaughan Oliver appeared in the Northern Echo in 1996

He showed talent at a young age – first appearing in The Northern Echo as the winner of the Durham County Schools Art Prize, when he was leaving school.

His work took him all over the world, and he was best known for his work with graphic design studios 23 Envelope and v23, which both maintained a close relationship with record label 4AD.

The Sunderland fan also designed the sleeve for the club's official cup final single in 1992.

Paying tribute to Mr Vaughan, a statement by 4AD said: "We are incredibly sad to learn of the passing of Vaughan Oliver; there was no-one else like him.

"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."

The Northern Echo: One of the labels designed for the PixiesOne of the labels designed for the Pixies

It added: "The Guardian said his designs were “abstract, dreamlike, elegant” and they weren’t wrong, he gave both us as a label and our musicians an identity and a voice.

"We will miss you Vaughan and our thoughts are with your family and friends. We were blessed to know you and will forever be thankful for all you did."

Among those to pay tribute to Mr Oliver were The Pixies and The Breeders.

In the 1990s he spoke to The Northern Echo about his work, ahead of an exhibition of his work, when he talked about some of the difficulties his parents had explaining his career to his neighbours.

Back then, he said: "They really encouraged me but when I went to study graphic design they had difficulty explaining to their neighbours what Vaughan had gone off to college to do and how he expected to get a job. But they began to understand when they were able to buy a lightbulb in a package I'd designed, although they didn't realise lightbulb boxes were designed."

In 2014, he was quoted as saying: “I was a working class lad from a dull town.

“There was no real culture, my parents were not really interested in anything unusual – everything I was getting was through record sleeves. It was a democratic way of discovering art.”

Mr Oliver also designed for commercial clients including L’Oréal and the 2012 London Olympics Games, and directed TV adverts for Microsoft, Sony and Harrods.

A book collecting his work, Vaughan Oliver: Archive, was published in 2018.

His family said he died peacefully, with his wife Lee, two sons, his sister and close friends.

A cause of death has not been given.