In Memory of Bob Gill, 1931–2021

Commentary — Nov 11, 2021

The co-founder of Fletcher/Forbes/Gill, the studio that grew into Pentagram, has passed away at age 90.

It is with great sadness that Pentagram notes the passing of Bob Gill, designer, artist, illustrator, writer and teacher, who died this week at age 90.

Bob was the co-founder of Fletcher/Forbes/Gill, the London studio he established with Alan Fletcher and Colin Forbes in 1962 that was the forerunner to Pentagram. Bob left the company in 1967 to pursue opportunities in film and theater, and Alan and Colin later added more partners and eventually formed Pentagram in 1972.

Bob was born in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and studied graphic design in Philadelphia and New York before moving to London to work in advertising. It was there that he met Alan and Colin, and as legend has it, they finally agreed to join together and form their own studio on advice given to Bob by a fortune teller. Fundamental to their practice was the belief that the best design is rooted in a good idea, rather than style, a principle Pentagram still follows today. 

Among his many accomplishments, he was the second president of D&AD (in 1964) and collaborated on the book and design of the hit Broadway musical “Beatlemania” (1977). He was a filmmaker and children’s book author and illustrator, and taught for over 50 years. He was an important writer on design, sharing his invaluable advice and opinions in titles like Forget All the Rules You Ever Learned About Graphic Design, Including the Ones in This Book (1981). 

Our New York office loved seeing him when he would stop by and visit on his bike rides around the city. We welcomed hearing his stories about the early days of Pentagram—like how he told his young intern Charlie Watts that he was a better drummer than graphic designer and should quit the profession to drum full time in an up-and-coming band called the Rolling Stones—as well as his experiences as part of advertising’s “Golden Age” in London and New York. He was also a fixture at our NYC events, most recently in 2019 when he had the opportunity to welcome our partner Giorgia Lupi, who was joining Pentagram more than 50 years—and 50 partners—after Bob first helped start it all.

RIP Bob, and condolences to his wife Sara Fishko and family.

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