Roger Dean (artist)

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Roger Dean
Roger Dean, DragonCon 2008.jpg
Dean at Dragon Con in 2008
William Roger Dean

(1944-08-31) 31 August 1944 (age 76)
Ashford, Kent, England
Alma materCanterbury School of Art
Royal College of Art
Known for
  • Artwork
  • design
  • architecture
  • publishing

William Roger Dean (born 31 August 1944), known as Roger Dean, is an English artist, designer, and publisher. He is best known for his work on posters and album covers for musicians, which he began painting in the late 1960s. The artists for whom he did the most art are English rock bands Yes and Asia.

The covers often feature exotic fantasy landscapes. His work has sold more than 150 million copies worldwide.

Early life[edit]

William Roger Dean was born on 31 August 1944 in Ashford, Kent.[1] His mother studied dress design at Canterbury School of Art before her marriage and his father was an engineer in the British Army. He has three siblings, brother Martyn and sisters Penny and Philippa. Much of Dean's childhood was spent in Greece, Cyprus, and, from age 12 to 15, Hong Kong, so his father could carry out army duties.[1] Dean was very keen on natural history as a child, and Chinese landscape art and feng shui became particular influences on him during his time in Hong Kong.[2] He has cited landscape, "and the pathways through it", as his greatest influence and source of inspiration.[3]

In 1959, after the family had returned to England, Dean attended Ashford Grammar School followed by his entry in 1961 to the Canterbury College of Art studying silversmithing and furniture design and graduated with a National Diploma in Design.[1] He was removed from a life drawing class by the principal for being "young and impressionable", and was informed he could not take it due to maths and physics being his other subjects, leading a switch to studying industrial design. As the school was trying to become accredited in the subject, Dean bypassed its foundation level course but disliked the way the subject was taught and questioned the teachers as to why people had to live in "boxes" and their response in that "form follows function".[4][5]

Towards the end of the course at Canterbury, Dean was faced with the option of pursuing either architecture or industrial design; one of his tutors thought neither were for him, and recommended that Dean study at the Royal College of Art in London. He enrolled at the college in 1965 to study furniture design and became a student of Professor David Pye.[4][1] Among his research was the "psychology of architecture" and what made people feel comfortable in buildings.[4] He did a thesis about "producing a sense of tranquillity in domestic architecture".[3] He graduated from the college in 1968 with a masters first degree honours, and won a silver medal for "work of special distinction".[6] By this time, Dean was interested in "designing the future [...] boxes for people to live in".[2][7] He considered Rick Griffin's artwork for Aoxomoxoa (1969) by The Grateful Dead as his "first big visual shock" and bought the album prior to owning a record player.[3]



Among Dean's first successes was his sea urchin chair design which spawned from his research at the Royal College and completed in 1967.[4] He filed a patent for it in the following year. It has been considered to be a predecessor to the bean bag, whereby the chair compresses and fully adapts to the shape and size of the user.[2][8] The design was completed when Dean was one of the few students picked from the Royal College to design and make objects in famed designer Cherrill Scheer's factory. The chair remains one of Cherrill's favourite pieces. It is now a part of the permanent collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum.[2]

In 1968, during his third year at the Royal College, Dean was assigned a project which involved the design of a contemporary landscape seating area of the upstairs disco at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in Soho. This led to the design of his first album cover, Gun (1968) by rock band Gun, after owner Ronnie Scott asked him to adapt a demonic-themed design that Dean originally made in his sketchbook for his thesis, for the album's cover.[4][1][7][3] Dean agreed, and was paid "around £5,000" for his work.[5] Dean earned more money from the album's cover than he had done with architecture related work, and realised covers took much less effort. He decided to venture into cover design not purely for the money, but its wider audience and its use "as a propaganda tool [...] showing people what might be and what could be".[3] Dean began to pick up work where he could, including covers for various jazz artists for Vertigo Records which he disliked, calling them "austere exercises" and too restrictive for the ideas he wished to convey.[3] The experience led Dean to establish a commission before starting work he wanted to do, leading to a short period of financial hardship.[3] At the same time, he wanted to release a book on architecture but faced rejection from 27 different publishers.[7][3]


Dean designed the logo to the independent label Fly Records in 1970. This led to Dean working on a single for their musician Marc Bolan which involved typesetting the liner notes and lyrics, but Dean had not done the technique before and completed them by hand with the assistance of a graphic designer, in order to show the printing staff where the typesets were to be placed. The positive reaction Dean received from his style of writing led to him handwriting the text for further Bolan singles.[4] This was a similar case for Dean's design for Clear Blue Sky (1970) by Clear Blue Sky, where a painting had been completed except the typesetting, "So to bluff my way through the meeting I had to handwrite it all and hope they would never ask about it".[9] The label's staffers were enthusiastic, which gave Dean the confidence to pursue more handwriting, logo, and graphic work.[9]

By 1971, Dean's desire to produce artwork for rock bands had grown though he continued to pursue architecture and headed a small exhibition of his work in Florence.[6] Following discussions with A&R man David Howells, who had assigned Dean the sleeve for The Gun, Dean agreed to work on the cover of Osibisa (1971) by afrobeat band Osibisa. The design is a result of a brief that Dean described as "credible African fairytale imagery" and features "flying elephants and not architecture", which became an early representation of the style he later achieved fame with.[2] Dean considered the job a breakthrough for his career as the design was made into a poster by the Big 'O' poster company which sold a large number of copies.[2] He later said, "From that point on I could do what I wanted".[3]

In mid-1971, during his search for work affiliated with rock bands, Dean sent a portfolio to numerous executives including Phil Carson, the European General Manager of Atlantic Records. Carson took an interest in using Dean for one of his rock acts, Yes, and hired Dean for the cover of Yes's fourth album, Fragile (1971), which marked the beginning of an association with the band to the present day.[2] Dean pitched a story on a creation myth rather than a particular image for it, "about a child who dreamt they were living on a planet that was breaking up, so they had to build a space ark to find another planet to live on. And they towed all the little bits of the planet with them".[2] In 1972, he designed the band's logo which he came up with during a journey on the Brighton Belle train.[2] Yes guitarist Steve Howe said, "There is a pretty tight bond between our sound and Roger's art". In addition to their album covers, Dean also contributed to Martyn Dean's stage set designs for the band.[10]

In 1972, Dean designed the logo for the newly established Virgin Records.[9]

During his work for Yessongs (1973), Dean and his printers Tinsley Robor secured a patent for "a way of going from gatefold to any number of pages, folded out of one piece of card".[3] For Yes's album Relayer (1974), he painted the sleeve in pencil and coloured it with dirty water.[4]

In the late 1970s, Dean had an idea for Living in the Third Millennium, a television show about the designs of the future yet it never made it to production due to budget constraints.[2]


In 1981, Dean and his brother Martyn had their collaborative design, the Tectonic House, a futuristic and economic home built to last, displayed at the annual International Ideal Home Exhibition in Birmingham. The idea spawned from two ideas: Dean's earlier designs for a bed and bedroom intended for the safety of children, and Martyn's "retreat pod" from 1970 that was featured in the Stanley Kubrick film A Clockwork Orange (1971).[11]

In the early 1980s, Dean collaborated with comic artist Michael Kaluta for the video game The Black Onyx (1984) by Henk Rogers. The project involved the pair producing an estimated 4,000 drawings for it, including ideas for its animation, story, music, and motion capture.[3]

Beginning in 1985 Dean created cover artwork for some Psygnosis games, including Shadow of the Beast and Obliterator.[12] He later did the cover art for Tetris Worlds as well as a redesign of the Tetris logo.[13]

Dean received an honorary doctorate from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco in 2002, and an honorary fellowship from the Arts University Bournemouth in 2009.[6]

In 2004, Dean worked on his "Homes for Life" architectural idea, designing affordable futuristic homes that can be mass-produced in factories and customised to the user's tastes. The design is curved based and without right angles.[7]

In 2013, Dean filed a legal action in U.S. District Court New York claiming that film director James Cameron was inspired by 14 of his original images in the making the 2009 blockbuster film Avatar. Dean sought damages of $50m.[14] Although the filmmakers admitted in court to being influenced by the artist's work, Dean's case was dismissed in 2014.[15]

In 2013, Dean received a Gold Badge of Merit[16] from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.

Dean has two permanent galleries, his largest at Trading Boundaries, East Sussex in the UK and the other at The San Francisco Art Exchange. Both of which display original works and limited edition prints, sketches and drawings.

Album covers[edit]

Arches Mist (1996). Another characteristic image, a moody landscape, with both fantastic and natural features

Known primarily for the dreamy, other-worldly scenes he has created for Yes, Asia, Budgie, Uriah Heep, Gentle Giant and other bands, Dean has described himself primarily as a landscape painter.[17] Characteristic landscapes show graceful stone arches (as shown in Arches Mist) or floating islands, while many paintings portray organic-seeming habitats, such as on the cover of Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. Though he primarily works with watercolour paints, many of his paintings make use of multiple media, including gouache, ink, enamel, crayon and collage. In addition to his cover paintings, Dean is respected for his calligraphic work, designing logos and titles to go with his paintings.

Dean was friends with album cover designer Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis and the two lived in the same building after leaving university. He recalled a time when they collaborated on an album cover, but it turned out to be "a complete failure".[17] The rise of the compact disc in the 1980s led to what Dean described as a decline in combining music with art, with the jewel case looking "tacky" and a way for record companies sacrificing quality to save money.[18] He cites the early CD reissue of Close to the Edge by Yes as one that particularly affected him as his inner sleeve artwork was missing, replaced with black and white text.[17]

Personal life[edit]

Dean has a daughter, artist and designer Freyja Dean (b. 1987) who is the inspiration behind the title to Dean's painting Freyja's Castle (1987). Dean lives in Lewes, East Sussex.

Recognition in other media[edit]

Dean is mentioned in the 1987 song "Dickie Davies Eyes" by English band Half Man Half Biscuit.

On 19 August 2016, the Isle of Man Post Office issued a series of 6 stamps featuring Dean's artwork:[19]

  • "Meeting Place" - produced exclusively for the stamp issue
  • "Blind Owl Late Landing" - features the unreleased Blind Owl album artwork
  • "Pathways" - cover artwork from 'Yes' triple album Yessongs
  • "Green Parrot Island" - derived from The Studio Albums 1969-1987 box set by 'Yes'
  • "Tales from Topographic Oceans" - from the 'Yes' album of the same name
  • "Sea of Light" comes from the Uriah Heep album of the same name

Dean has had a long relationship with the Isle of Man, and especially with its long-term resident Rick Wakeman, keyboardist of the progressive rock band 'Yes', for which Dean has designed several pieces of album artwork.[19]

This cover was also issued in a limited 75-issue run which were signed by Roger Dean (this cover was issued on 2 September 2016).

On 20 August 2016, an exhibition of Dean's masterpieces went on display at the Manx Museum.[20]

A special First Day Cover was issued on 25 March 2018, to celebrate 50 years of 'Yes' - this was a different cover to the August 2016 one, and was postmarked in Gold to record this historic event and signed personally by Dean who has created a special 50th Anniversary logo. A limited edition of 1000 signed covers were issued.


Album covers[edit]

Year Artist Album
1968 The Gun Gun
1969 Earth and Fire Earth and Fire
1970 Nucleus Elastic Rock
1970 Lighthouse One Fine Morning[21]
1970 Dr. Strangely Strange Heavy Petting
1970 Clear Blue Sky Clear Blue Sky
1971 Midnight Sun Midnight Sun
1971 Osibisa Osibisa
1971 Keith Tippett Group Dedicated To You But You Weren't Listening
1971 Nucleus We'll Talk About It Later
1971 Assagai Zimbabwe
1971 Patto Hold Your Fire
1971 Ramases Space Hymns
1971 Mike Absalom Mike Absalom[22]
1971 Osibisa Woyaya
1971 Pete Dello and Friends Into Your Ears
1971 Rare Earth One World (inner spread only)
1971 Atomic Rooster In Hearing of Atomic Rooster
1971 Yes Fragile
1972 Billy Cox Nitro Function
1972 John Dummer Band Blue
1972 Gracious! This Is...Gracious!!
1972 Yes Close to the Edge
1972 Uriah Heep Demons and Wizards
1972 Lighthouse Thoughts Of Movin' On''[21]
1972 Gentle Giant Octopus
1972 Babe Ruth First Base
1972 Budgie Squawk
1972 Midnight Sun Walking Circles
1972 Third Ear Band Music from Macbeth
1972 Uriah Heep The Magician's Birthday
1972 Paladin Charge!
1972 Various Motown Chartbusters Vol. Six
1973 Greenslade Greenslade
1973 Magna Carta Lord of the Ages
1973 Yes Yessongs
1973 Budgie Never Turn Your Back on a Friend
1973 Yes Tales from Topographic Oceans
1973 McKendree Spring Spring Suite
1973 Del Richardson Pieces of a Jigsaw
1973 Badger One Live Badger
1973 Greenslade Bedside Manners Are Extra
1973 Snafu SNAFU
1974 Gravy Train Staircase to the Day
1974 Yes Relayer
1974 Yes Yesterdays
1975 Steve Howe Beginnings
1976 Dave Greenslade Cactus Choir
1977 John Lodge Natural Avenue
1979 Steve Howe The Steve Howe Album
1980 Yes Drama
1980 Yes Yesshows
1981 Yes Classic Yes
1982 Asia Asia
1983 Asia Alpha
1983 Barry Devlin Breaking Starcodes
1984 Nightwing My Kingdom Come
1985 Asia Astra
1989 It Bites Eat Me in St. Louis
1989 Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe
1990 Asia Then & Now
1991 Yes Union
1991 Steve Howe Turbulence
1991 Yes Yesyears
1992 Yes Yesstory
1993 Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe An Evening of Yes Music Plus
1993 LPO, ECO & London Community Gospel Choir Symphonic Music of Yes
1993 Rick Wakeman Rick Wakeman's Greatest Hits
1994 Steve Howe Not Necessarily Acoustic
1994 Asia Aria
1995 Uriah Heep Sea of Light
1995 Various artists Tales from Yesterday
1996 Various artists Supernatural Fairy Tales: The Progressive Rock Era
1996 Yes Keys to Ascension
1996 Budgie An Ecstasy of Fumbling - The Definitive Anthology
1997 London Philharmonic Orchestra Us and Them: Symphonic Pink Floyd
1997 Space Needle The Moray Eels Eat the Space Needle
1997 Yes Keys to Ascension 2
1997 Yes Open Your Eyes
1997 London Symphony Orchestra Symphonic Rock: American Classics
1997 London Symphony Orchestra Symphonic Rock: The British Invasion, Vol. 1
1998 London Symphony Orchestra Symphonic Rock: The British Invasion, Vol. 2
1998 Ad Infinitum Ad Infinitum
1998 Various artists Yes, Friends and Relatives
1998 Yes Keys to Ascension Volumes 1 and 2
1999 Yes The Ladder
1999 Rick Wakeman Return to the Centre of the Earth
2000 Various artists Yes, Friends and Relatives Volume 2
2000 Yes House of Yes: Live from House of Blues
2000 TM Network Major Turn-Round
2001 Uriah Heep Acoustically Driven
2001 Yes Keystudio
2001 Uriah Heep Remasters: The Official Anthology
2001 Atomic Rooster Resurrection
2001 Asia Aura
2002 Yes In a Word: Yes (1969–)
2002 Vermilion Flattening Mountains and Creating Empires
2003 Birdsongs of the Mesozoic The Iridium Controversy
2003 Steve Howe Elements
2004 Yes The Ultimate Yes: 35th Anniversary Collection
2005 Glass Hammer The Inconsolable Secret
2005 Yes The Word Is Live
2006 Alan White White
2006 Electric Sheep Sweep
2008 Asia Phoenix
2010 Asia Omega
2010 Various artists Wondrous Stories – A Complete Introduction To Progressive Rock
2010 Various artists Wondrous Stories – 34 Artist That Shaped The Prog Rock Era
2011 Yes Fly from Here
2011 Ben Craven Great & Terrible Potions
2011 Yes In the Present - Live from Lyon
2012 Asia XXX
2012 Focus Focus X
2012 Asia Resonance: The Omega Tour Live In Basel 2010
2014 Yes Like It Is: Yes at the Bristol Hippodrome
2014 Asia Gravitas
2014 Yes Heaven & Earth
2014 Yes Union Live
2015 Black Moth Condemned To Hope
2015 Thijs van Leer (Focus) Sir Thijs Van Leer: Live At Trading Boundaries
2015 Yes Progeny: Seven Shows from Seventy-Two
2015 Yes Like It Is: Yes at the Mesa Arts Center
2016 Magna Carta Tomorrow Never Comes:The Anthology 1969 - 2006
2016 Rick Wakeman The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (2016 re-recording)
2016 Art Griffin's Sound Chaser Visions From The Present
2017 Yes Topographic Drama – Live Across America
2017 Focus The Focus Family Album
2017 White Willow Future Hopes
2017 DBA³ Geoffrey Downs · Christopher Braide Skyscraper Souls
2018 Yes Fly From Here - Return Trip
2019 Focus Focus 11
2019 Yes From A Page
2019 Yes Yes 50 Live
2020 DBA Geoffrey Downs · Christopher Braide Live In England

Video game covers[edit]



  • Views (1975). A book with full and double page images of Dean's architectural and artistic artwork. Its features text contributions from Dominy Hamilton and Carla Capalbo, with the architectural section by Donald Lehmkuhl.
  • Magnetic Storm (1984). A retrospective of Dean's artwork since the release of Views, including albums, concert stages, film projects, architecture, games, landscapes, and books.
  • Dragon's Dream (2008). A display of Dean's work in the past 20 years, including concepts and designs for opera and animated films.


  • The Flights of Icarus (1977). Large format colour book with paintings by Dean, Martyn Dean, and others. Edited by Donald Lehmkuhl, Martyn Dean, and Roger Dean.


  1. ^ a b c d e Welch 2008, p. 118.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Flynn, Rik (21 March 2017). "Cover Star: We Speak to the Iconic Cover Artist Roger Dean". Long Live Vinyl. Retrieved 13 August 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Music - Classic Rock/Pop - Interview: Roger Dean". BBC. Archived from the original on 11 September 2002. Retrieved 19 August 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Hellard, Paul (23 July 2013). "Roger Dean". CG Society. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
  5. ^ a b Higgins, Tim (15 June 2012). "Roger Dean: The man behind the fantastical Yes album covers". The Morning Call. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
  6. ^ a b c "Exhibition of Work Internationally-Acclaimed Artist and LP Cover Designer". Isle of Man Newspapers. 21 August 2016. Archived from the original on 20 August 2017. Retrieved 19 August 2017 – via Highbeam Research. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ a b c d Rowe, Jeri (23 April 2004). "Roger Dean: The artist behind the music". Greensboro News-Record. Retrieved 19 August 2017.
  8. ^ "W. R. Dean – Sea Urchin Chair" (PDF). United States Patent Office. 17 February 1970. Retrieved 19 August 2017 – via Google.
  9. ^ a b c "Roger Dean Interview (2007)". Gilmour Design. 14 January 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
  10. ^ Roger Dean (1984). Magnetic Storm. Reissue: Pomegranate (1993): ISBN 1-56640-449-5.
  11. ^ "Coming home from a fantasy world". Building Design Online. 11 April 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
  12. ^ "Atari ST Obliterator Manual". Atari Mania. 1987.
  13. ^ Roger Dean's profile at MobyGames. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  14. ^ "James Cameron sued by artist Roger Dean over Avatar". BBC News. 30 June 2013. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  15. ^ Couch, Aaron. James Cameron Wins Avatar Idea Theft Lawsuit Against Artist", Hollywood Reporter, September 17, 2014
  16. ^ "2013 BASCA Gold Badge Award Recipients Announced - PPL". Retrieved 30 October 2018.
  17. ^ a b c Goldberg, Michael Alan (31 July 2013). "Roger Dean Is the Most Important Person in Yes Who Actually Isn't in Yes". The Village Voice. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  18. ^ Siddall, Liv (10 April 2015). "An interview with one of the most prolific designers in music, Roger Dean". It's Nice That. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  19. ^ a b Isle of Man Post Office (18 August 2016). "Isle of Man Post Office issues stamps with exclusive image to celebrate the work of artist and designer Roger Dean". Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  20. ^ Isle of Man Post Office (23 August 2016). "Isle of Man Post Office Chairman presents Roger Dean with a framed set of stamps on opening night of his exhibition at the Manx Museum in Douglas". Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  21. ^ a b "Classic70sRock". Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  22. ^ "Mike Absalom Music Shop". Retrieved 9 February 2012.
  23. ^ "Fatal Rewind Cover" (PDF). Retrieved 30 January 2019.


External links[edit]