Quentin Fiore  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Quentin Fiore (February 12, 1920 – April 13, 2019) was an American graphic designer, who worked mostly in books, best-known for The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects (1967) which he made with Marshall McLuhan.

Early life and education

Quentin Fiore was born on February 12, 1920 in the Bronx, New York to Antonino, a tailor, and Bice (née Bononi) Fiore and was raised in Brooklyn. Fiore was a self-taught designer. His visual education came from a short period of painting and drawing classes in New York in the late 1930s at the Art Students League of New York with George Grosz and, later, Hans Hoffmann. Fiore later studied at the "New Bauhaus" in Chicago.

He was a conscientious objector during World War II along with two of his four brothers were assigned to camps around the country fighting forest fires and rescuing lost or injured skiers. After the war in 1946, Fiore married Jeanne DeWolfe Raseman.


In the late 1940s, Fiore turned to graphic design and worked as an art director for Christian Dior and Bonwit Teller, later moving on to more corporate work for Ford Foundation, Bell Laboratories and RCA in the 1950s.

Fiore is noted especially by his designs of the 1960s, where he mixed text and images, different sizes of type and other unconventional devices to create dynamic pages that reflected the tumultuous spirit of the time. In the words of critic Steven Heller, Fiore was "as anarchic as possible while still working within the constraints of bookmaking". Of particular interest are his collaborations with media theorist Marshall McLuhan, such as The Medium is the Massage (1967). Initiated by Fiore, The Medium is the Masage didn't have a manuscript but was an amalgamation of McLuhan's previous works 1962 Gutenberg Galaxy and 1964 Understanding Media in an attempt to popularize McLuhan. The book has been described as the seed from which the idea that "consciousness can be affected by the knowing collision of verbal and visual information" sprouted. The style Fiore implemented in the book is a kinetic interpretation of the philosophy so that the complex ideas could be understandable to a visual audience. The typography within was at all different angles, superimposed on images, and meant to be read in a mirror. The book received mixed reviews with its disregard of typographic rules, while others thought it "it promoted illiteracy, encouraged drug use, it corrupted the morals of the American youth." The initial print run by Bantam consisted of 5,000 paperback copies, with a hardbound edition from Random House. The book was wildly successful with subsequent print runs and translations in German, Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese and Italian. Worldwide circulation was close to a million and McLuhan's largest-selling publication.

The style was pushed further in DO IT!: Scenarios of the Revolution (1970), the controversial yippie manifesto by social activist Jerry Rubin. Rubin collected most of the material for the book, working with Fiore when he was available and was later described as an important political statement.

In 1968 The Medium is the Massage was made into an LP (Columbia, CS 9501, CL 2701), combining readings of excerpts of the book with musical samples and original musical accompaniments. In 1999, a remastered version was released in CD format by SME Japan.

He died in North Canaan, Connecticut on April 13, 2019 at the age of 99.

Selected works

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Quentin Fiore" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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