Quentin Fiore (1920-2019), Book Designer, Deceased at 99


The graphic designer Quentin Fiore in an undated photograph. In the 1960s he collaborated with Marshall McLuhan, Jerry Rubin and Buckminster Fuller. Credit: Fiore Family

By Katharine Q. Seelye   –   May 1, 2019

Bianca Fiore La Porta, his daughter, said the cause was complications of bronchitis.

Mr. Fiore spent much of his career doing conventional design work for large corporations and book jackets for university presses. But he was best known for his book collaborations in the 1960s with McLuhan, the communications theorist, and later with the antiwar activist Jerry Rubin and the inventor and visionary Buckminster Fuller.

By the time of their collaboration, McLuhan had already coined the phrase “the medium is the message” in his book “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man” (1964). His point was that the medium in which we acquire information is more important than the information itself. He was speaking chiefly of television and the neurological and temperamental effects of its mosaic of dots and lights on the viewer, but he later enjoyed a revival as an oracle of the cyber age.

Mr. Fiore’s first book with McLuhan was “The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects” (1967). “Massage” was a printer’s error, but McLuhan, a wordsmith who delighted in puns, liked the typo and kept it, believing that it amplified his theory about how different forms of media thoroughly “massage” the senses in the “mass age” of communications.

The book, which Mr. Fiore initiated, was a kinetic interpretation of McLuhan’s philosophy. Some pages were printed backward, to be read in a mirror. Some of the writing was upside down. Some pages contained text superimposed over pictures.

Mr. Fiore said his goal was to reduce “complex ideas to simple signs, glyphs, patches of text.” One of his inspirations was the “long and sad tale” told by a mouse in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” the words rendered in the shape of a tail.

He wanted his style to “convey the spirit, the ‘populist’ outcry of the era,” Mr. Fiore said in a 1992 interview with the designer and writer J. Abbott Miller. “The linearity of the text in an average book wouldn’t do. After all, the medium was the message!”

The result was revolutionary in terms of design.

“Fiore took an intensely active role in making McLuhan’s fundamental ideas accessible to an increasingly visually literate audience,” the designer Steven Heller, a former art director for The New York Times Book Review, said in an email.  Read the rest at https://tiny.cc/jcp15y

Read also on this blog McLuhan’s Most Innovative Book: The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects (1967) – https://tiny.cc/41p15y

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