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Book jacket for Mario Puzo's The Godfather designed by S. Neil Fujita

The Manhattan Rare Book Company: New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, (1969). Octavo, original cloth, original dust jacket.

I was watching (again) The Godfather trilogy lately and found myself wondering who was responsible for the all too recognizable font use both for original edition of Mario Puzo’s best-seller and for the movies opening credits. The answer came today, in the form of an obituary:

S. Neil Fujita, a graphic designer who used avant-garde painting and photography to create some of the most striking album covers of the 1950s, and who designed the visually arresting book jackets for “In Cold Blood” and “The Godfather,” died on Saturday in Greenport, on the North Fork of Long Island. He was 89. […]

For “The Godfather,” Mr. Fujita designed a heavy, Gothic-looking typeface with the top of the “G” extended to emphasize the first three letters in the title. Above, a disembodied hand held an X-shaped control bar attached to the word “Godfather” with a puppeteer’s strings. (The New York Times: “S. Neil Fujita, Innovative Graphic Designer, Dies at 89” by W. Grimes, October 27, 2010)

More interesting facts about the way the design was use by Coppola’s trilogy were given by Fujit in a 2007 interview with art director and designer Steven Heller:

Heller: Didn’t you design the logo for The Godfather films?
Fujita: Yes, I did the logo—I [originally] designed the book jacket for Putnam in 1969. By taking the “G” and extending it to the “D,” I created a house for “God.” The way the word was designed was part of the logo and so was the type design. So when Paramount Pictures does a film version or Random House, which bought out the book from Putnam, does another Godfather book, I still get a design credit. In fact, before the first Godfather film opened in New York I saw a huge billboard going up in Times Square with my design on it. I actually got them to stop work on it until we were able to come to an agreement. (read more over at AIGA: “Waxing Chromatic: An Interview with S. Neil Fujita” by Steven Heller, September 18, 2007)

The Observatory, a related channel to the Design Observer, offers a thorough review of S. Neil Fujita’s book: Aim for a job in graphic design/art (R. Rosen Press, 1979).

Interested in buying a first edition of Puzo’s book? The copy displayed above can be bought for a mere 1650US$. Follow the link to the Manhattan Rare Book Company for more information.

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