An Iconoclastic Design Rebel

In 1962, designers Bob Gill, Alan Fletcher and Colin Forbes formed the agency Fletcher/Forbes/Gill, which became Pentagram a decade later. While Bob Gill left the firm in 1967, he had helped establish idea-driven design with the notion that aesthetics should serve the concept, not the other way around. Good design was about communicating a message, not forcing a trendy look on clients.

Bob moved back to the States in the 60s, taught design at the School of Visual Arts for 50 years, worked as a freelance designer, and wrote several books, including “Forget All the Rules You Ever Learned About Graphic Design. Including the Ones in This Book.” (1981) and Graphic Design Made Difficult (1982). He is best known for his visual puns. A poster for Bob Fosse’s 1978 musical, “Dancin’,” included extra arms and legs. A brochure cover for a car rental company simply says “We hate small print.” Michaelangelo’s finger touches a digital finger on the cover of “Print” magazine. Friendly competitors secretly want to kill each other on the cover of the 65th Art Directors Annual.

Mr. Gill was also well known for his graphic designer dictums: “If you have something truthful to say, it will design itself.” “Boring words need interesting graphics.” “No matter how many times your amazing, absolutely brilliant work is rejected by the client, for whatever dopey, arbitrary reason, there is often another amazing, absolutely brilliant solution possible. Sometimes it’s even better.” And my personal favorite: “There’s no such thing as a bad client, only bad designers.”

Bob Gill died at 90 on November 9th in New York City and was an iconoclastic design rebel to the very end. New York Times obituary. SVA obituary.


Taylor Design Blog

By Dan

President / Creative Director