The Design Genius of S. Neil Fujita

One of the most influential of mid-century designer/illustrators was Sadamitsu (“S. Neil”) Fujita. Born to Japanese immigrants & raised in Hawaii, he later served in the U.S. military during WW2. After a stint with an ad agency and executing some striking covers for Fortune magazine that featured his paintings showing the influence of abstract expressionism, he was hired in 1954 to lead Columbia Records’ design dept. There he was responsible for a modernist take on many iconic album covers. (He also hired a staff that included women and African-Americans at a time when diversity was neither common nor valued in corporate America.) By the mid-’60s, he had left to set up his own studio, Fujita Design where he created some profoundly influential book covers. For example, his solemn blood-drop for Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood in 1966 and, four years later, the dramatic hand-clutching-a-crucifix image and bold typeface for Mario Puzo’s The Godfather.