Friday, 5 November 2010


My obituary of the graphic designer S. Neil Fujita will be in tomorrow's Guardian, but is online now, you can link to it here. Alongside it on the website there's also a gallery of Fujita's designs, which you can find here. I haven't copied any of the designs shown there in this posting, apart from the Jazz Messengers album, but note his own paintings in particular (an less typical piece of his art is featured right) and also the simplicity of the design in his guide to a career in design, the way 'Ideas' becomes central, with all the artists' implements playing supporting roles.

I found the racial angle interesting, especially because in a recet episode of Mad Men, Roger refuses to do business with executives from Honda--Fujita certainly must have encountered such problems, even though he served with the Nisei regiment that was the most-decorated of any in the US Army. The Guardian said the Nisei were 'sent' to fight in Europe, but I had written that they were 'allowed to fight only' in Europe, hence his posting to the Pacific as a translator. Medals aside, the US Army still didn't trust 'Japs'.

It also would have been nice to write a bit about the difference between Alex Steinweiss, Fujita's legedary predecessor at Columbia, and his work, but space didn't allow.

A few small points: my favourite bit of the Jazz Messengers cover is the pensive Hank Mobley, with his glasses, which emphasized the cerebral nature of this hard-bop jazz. Fujita retired to Southold, Long Island, and exhibited his paintings there (somehow that became 'locally' without the locality being mentioned. Nor his cover design for his autobiography, Mouth Of Reddish Water, is one of his strongest book designs.

And though I am fond of his cover for V, I have to say I like the original hardback, and the Bantam paperback edition I had when I was 17, a bit better. The Bantam incorporates the lines running toward the horizon with a solid, stone contrast to the Fujita which is, as I said in the obit, more playful.

1 comment :

dlwilson26 said...

Thanks for posting that obit. I posted it at the Well and their was a big response. You should check out for some interesting conversations with some interesting people. There is are active conferences on mystery fiction, films, UK, politics, sports.

From what I know about you from reading this blog, it would be your cup of gasoline!