you think about it, Bob
Wood '37 started his career as a graphic designer
at Oberlin. He just didn't know it at the time.
layout editor of the 1936 Hi-O-Hi, Bob, an art history major,
arranged its pages in an artful, dynamic manner, tilting and
overlapping photos and adding dozens of his own lively illustrations
of college life. A critical eye can see in these pages the seeds
of a style that Bob employs to this day as designer of the Swarthmore
College Bulletin and the dozens of ads, posters, and invitations
that he has created for Kendal at Longwood, the Quaker-tinged
retirement community where he lives with his wife of 60 years,
Mary deSchweinitz Wood '36.
in his den at Kendal, he recalls 1936 as if it were yesterday.
That was the year LIFE magazine was launched, and Bob still
has the copy of Vol. I, No. 1, that he reserved at the local
drug store. It was through the influence of that new magazine,
plus a binge of photographic exploration during a trip to Mexico
City that summer, that he found his professional niche.
college, Bob studied commercial art at New York's Pratt Institute.
He's glad he didn't go to art school right out of high school.
The advertising world was changing, and Oberlin's liberal arts
education gave him an advantage over his fellow students at
Pratt. "It was a time when ads were beginning to emphasize ideas
rather than just a bunch of words illustrated by a pretty picture
of the product," says Bob. "That played right into my hand.
I was four years older, and though I didn't know a lot about
any one thing, I knew a little about a lot of things."
1945, Bob joined Al Paul Lefton, an established ad agency in
Philadelphia. "They paid me for my ideas," he says. Many made
it onto the ad pages of magazines and newspapers, but some of
his favorites, he says, were beyond clients such as the Pennsylvania
Railroad, John Wanamaker's, and the Philadelphia Inquirer.
morning Inquirer was then in second place behind the
afternoon Philadelphia Bulletin, whose famous ad campaign
had a single slogan: "In Philadelphia, nearly everyone reads
the Bulletin." Bob's proposed rejoinder: "In Philadelphia,
nearly everyone heeds the Inquirer." The client didn't
get it, but plenty of Bob's other ideas were successful, and
he was soon promoted to art director, leading a youth movement
in the agency.
1960, Bob left the agency in favor of freelance work for corporate
clients including Provident National Bank, the DuPont Company,
and others in the Philadelphia area. With corporate customers
providing his bread and butter, he began looking for new clients
he could stretch intellectually. Having lived since 1947 in
the Philadelphia suburb of Swarthmore, about 1970 he approached
Swarthmore College, seeking a chance to design its alumni magazine.
was an average student at Oberlin," he says, "but I'm a natural
student now. I'm interested in a broad range of things and I
like the college atmosphere." Swarthmore
did hire him to do its magazine, and over the next two decades
he became the college's principal designer, turning out everything
from fundraising brochures to a 150-page history of the institution.
a corner of Bob's three-room apartment is a Macintosh computer
rig that would be the envy of most college students. Using Photoshop
and Illustrator, two powerful graphics programs, he scans and
manipulates drawings and photographs, adding words, churning
out new ideas. "Look at this," he says, clicking his mouse.
"Isn't it marvelous what you can do with pictures these days?"
Lott is the director of publications at Swarthmore and editor
of the Swarthmore