As a writer, words are really all I've got. That's why typography and design have always been intense passions of mine. I'd rather hang out with type people than writers any day.
We lost a good one in Rob Roy Kelly. Here is an annotation of Steven Heller's obituary from the NYT for those of us who didn't know him while he lived. See Design Observer for insights from people who did.
February 1, 2004
Rob Roy Kelly, Specialist in Wood Type, Dies at 78
By STEVEN HELLER
Rob Roy Kelly, a graphic design educator, historian and collector whose influential book on the history of 19th-century American wood type prompted a major typographic revival in the 1970's, died on Jan. 22 in Tempe, Ariz. He was 78.
The cause was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, his wife, Mary Helen, said.
Mr. Kelly's analytical history of antique and forgotten typefaces, "American Wood Type, 1828-1900: Notes on the Evolution of Decorated and Large Types and Comments on Related Trades of the Period," was originally published by Da Capo Press in 1977 . It was one of the first serious attempts to uncover the origins of this decorative vernacular style of type, which was introduced during the early days of American advertising.
Mr. Kelly's exhaustive investigation into printers' records inspired other scholars to study the ignored past of graphic design.
"All of my research projects began with personal curiosity which could not be satisfied because there was no body of information on the subject," Mr. Kelly wrote on a Web site of his writings created by the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he was formerly the William A. Kern professor of communications.
Mr. Kelly amassed a huge collection of rare types and specimen books he bought from old printers. Rather than lock them in a vault, he allowed his students to use them to learn past styles and methods. Their questions about when and how the types were made gave further impetus to Mr. Kelly's work, which also included the book "100 Wood Type Alphabets" (Dover, 1977).
Because of his collection's size, Mr. Kelly sold it in the late 1960's to the Museum of Modern Art, which later sent it to the University of Texas Library to be housed in a collection available to scholars.
Mr. Kelly was born in east central Nebraska on March 15, 1925. He studied design at the University of Nebraska and the Minneapolis School of Art and served in the Army during the Korean War. Later he did graduate work at the School of Art and Architecture at Yale, where he studied with Josef Albers, Alvin Eisenman, Alvin Lustig, Herbert Matter, Leo Lionni, Lester Beall and Alexey Brodovitch.
He both taught and administered graphic design programs at the Minneapolis College of Art, Kansas City Art Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Western Michigan University and, most recently, at Arizona State University.
In addition to continuing his research on typefaces and more recently pursuing an obsessive study of trivets, the vintage cast bases for irons, Mr. Kelly was devoted to improving graphic design education.
"There are many young teachers in the field today who have a sincere desire to be good teachers, but they come from weak educational backgrounds," he argued in the preface to a series of his academic papers collected on the R.I.T. Web site.
Mr. Kelly's first marriage, to Cherry Barthel, ended in divorce. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his children from his former marriage: three sons, Rob Roy B., of Mankato, Minn., and Denri and Troy, both of Kansas City, Mo.; and a daughter, Shaun, of Scottsdale, Ariz.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company