Graphic designer Bob Gill dies at 90

Bob Gill, a graphic designer whose zany, mock-ups of frequently forgotten concepts designed for corporations and the military became the stuff of pop culture legend, has died at the age of 90. In a…

Graphic designer Bob Gill dies at 90

Bob Gill, a graphic designer whose zany, mock-ups of frequently forgotten concepts designed for corporations and the military became the stuff of pop culture legend, has died at the age of 90.

In a foreword to Gill’s widely acclaimed memoir “Bubble Bums,” the late culture critic P.J. O’Rourke lauded Gill’s “tremendous variety of schemes,” including “You Can’t Explain This, You Will Not Believe it” and “No Closure but They Must Go.”

The designs of their posters, posters for their TV shows, cartoons, books and logos became standard representations of many of the things that people viewed as ridiculous, including the concept of Pink Floyd at Woodstock.

By 1969, Gill had risen from small part-time work for major corporations to managing a team of 12 designers.

By the 1980s, he and his team had designed more than 200 computer-generated designs for the movie “The Amityville Horror,” among them 5,000 “elements” to guide what director James Wan wanted.

No job was too big or too small for Gill, who had a penchant for hiring on his dream team of freelancers on each project.

“Bob laid out blueprints for me,” O’Rourke wrote in his memoir. “Bob wanted me to create my own financial plans for my business in which I would eschew office work entirely and focus on managing the freelancers at the other end of the business.”

And Gill cast a wide net to find the best talent to work for him.

“Since I had access to some of the best talent of the day,” Gill later wrote, “I started at Walmart and Panera and went directly to a jewelry store. I gradually moved through a network of established graphic designers.”

In 1973, Gill left Sanger & Partners, the agency founded by the father of art director Paul Rand, to start his own design firm, CBN Graphics. At CBN, he honed his abilities as a designer in the advertising world, making connections and producing work that showed an offbeat side.

Gill also worked on such spots as the 1977 Rock Hudson ad for Johnsonville Sausage, where three vocal donkeys told viewers that if they had a couple of sausage links in their fridge they could “eat a sausage and prance.”

Paul W. Gleason, his former partner, recalled when he was an intern for Gill in the mid-1960s, noting that he was inspired by his boss’ designs.

“As he laughed, his eye would roll and his mouth would turn to a slant, giving the image the appearance of a puking monkey, which was how Bob viewed Don Quixote,” Gleason wrote in an obituary.

Gill’s post-worklife was as varied as his creativity. He drew names and outlines of alligators for recreational anglers and designed maps and postcards for public sale in the 60s and 70s.

He created the interlocking planes on Louisiana-Pacific’s Canvas-It labels, learning that how each piece of offset stock is held and moved can tell a story of how the units were put together. He also worked on programs for the Vatican.

Gill worked his way up from commercial advertising executive to major design firm product director in his early career to becoming one of the top-selling graphic designers in the world.

Along the way, he has had minor strokes, heart problems and hypertension and went through a divorce.

Gill died Friday at his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, his family said.

During his career, Gill, often accompanied by his dog Enzo, traveled the country as a prominent designer, visiting relatives, artists and companies in hopes of conveying an organization’s message.

“You must never lose your sense of humor,” Gill said in a 1995 interview. “One of the first things you need to do in communication is find the funny side of the problem.”

Born on April 15, 1926, Gill grew up in Lexington, Ky., and earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Kentucky in 1948.

After serving in the Navy, he worked as a freelance graphic designer in Washington, D.C., from 1949 until 1956, when he established his own advertising agency.

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