The Inspiring Message & Lasting Legacy of Bob Gill
Anyone in a creative field can look back and point to those people whose work influenced and inspired them. Then there are those that can’t necessarily be named. Even though their work has a tangible effect on how and why we do what we do every day, they’re not household names. Bob Gill, the prolific and iconoclastic graphic designer/author/illustrator/musician who died last week at the age of 90, was one of those individuals.
As Art Director for Interiors magazine back in the 1980s, I was lucky enough to work alongside the designers at the NYC offices of Pentagram, the prestigious design studio Gill co-founded in London in 1962 (shortly after encouraging his design assistant, Charlie Watts, to go ahead and join that Rolling Stones band). Gill left Pentagram long before I got there, but his influence on that firm and on the graphic design business as a whole was and still is pervasive.
“Mr. Gill was part of a revolution in his profession.” says NY Times writer Penelope Green in a recent feature. “He felt passionately that good design was about communicating a message, not foisting a fashionable aesthetic on a client.”
Gill amassed an impressive and eclectic list of accomplishments in his lifetime, including authoring a dozen children’s books and co-creating and designing the hit Broadway show “Beatlemania” in the 1970s, for example. But he left his biggest mark on the graphic design business itself. Where designers used to be mainly concerned about the right colors or pretty pictures, Gill insisted that great graphic design should, first and foremost, clearly communicate a message. The industry followed his lead, and the profession grew in influence and importance.
I never got to meet him, but in my design work and in my successful business, it turns out that Bob Gill has affected me deeply. Click below to watch a short film that provides a closeup look at the artist and his work.