S. Neil Fujita is dead but his work lives on in prominent book covers, record album art and to some degree the very merging of the graphic design field with public relations. Fujita attended art school, learning to draw and paint, but had no idea what he really wanted to do. He thought it was impossible to make a living with his art. Along the way he happened into a job at Columbia Records in 1954 where they asked him to design album covers. Although he didn’t invent album cover design, he thought he may have been the first to use painters, photographers and illustrators to create artwork for album covers.
Fujita’s design work was more notable in his jazz album covers. He thought that jazz being a more abstract and stylized form, more easily lent itself to artistic interpretation – in more ways than one. Fujita said he once encouraged Leonard Bernstein to dress casually for a recording session and photo shoot because it was a jazz recording, no need for the formal stuff.
Along the way Fujita designed the famous cover for Truman Capote’s book, “In Cold Blood.” Originally, Fujita’s cover design featured a pin with a red “drop” that resembled blood. Capote objected because the case was old. The artist then changed the color to burgundy which he thought evoked the general idea of dried blood. Who would have guessed? Other famous covers include The Godfather with its “G” extending to the “D” to form a sort of house. Watchers of the Today Show on NBC can thank Fujita for the iconic rainbow.
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