You don’t know his name, but you’ve probably seen Vaughan Oliver’s work.
The British graphic designer is the person responsible for creating classic album covers for the likes of Pixies, Throwing Muses, the Cocteau Twins, Ultra Vivid Scene, the Breeders, Lush, and This Mortal Coil. Through his use of typography and austere (sometimes whimsical) imagery, Oliver managed to evoke a sense of what these bands sound like — which is no small thing in the case of, say, Pixies and the Cocteau Twins.
Since the late 1980s, Oliver’s work has influenced aesthetes and others interested in design, including Kristina Lamour Sansone, a professor of design at Lesley University College of Art and Design, who has helped organize an exhibition of Oliver’s work. Called “Walking Backwards,” the show at Lesley’s Lunder Arts Center opened with a reception Thursday and runs through Oct. 22.
“This show stemmed from seeing his work when I was a student and the impact it had on me,” Sansone said. “Vaughan is able to provide a visual language for something that seems abstract and ethereal.”
Oliver, who lives in Epsom, south of London, will be at Thursday’s reception. (His wife, Lee Widdows, associate head of the school of fashion at the University of the Creative Arts in London and curator of the Lesley show, will not.) And then on Friday, Lesley and the Boston chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts will also host a panel devoted to Oliver’s work, featuring designers Clif Stoltze, Timothy Samara, Kenneth FitzGerald, and Timothy O’Donnell.