Tony Palladino, American (1920 - 2014)

Tony Palladino

Mr. Palladino’s conception for “Psycho” originally appeared on the book jacket for Robert Bloch’s 1959 novel of that title, published by Simon & Schuster. For his 1960 film adaptation, Alfred Hitchcock purchased the rights to the lettering for its promotion, which influenced the opening credit sequence created by Saul Bass.

Mr. Palladino said the design — stark white letters torn and seemingly pasted together against a black background to resemble a ransom note — was intended to illustrate typographically the homicidal madness of the novel’s protagonist, Norman Bates.

Mr. Palladino created many recruitment posters for the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. Credit Tony Palladino
“How do you do a better image of ‘Psycho’ than the word itself?” he said.

Among other projects, Mr. Palladino illustrated posters for Mobil’s Masterpiece Theater series and designed the propulsive blue-and-white logo for Conrail, the Northeast railroad that operated 1976 to 1999.

But advertising was his bread and butter. Mr. Palladino was part of a young generation of advertising art directors and copywriters who emerged in the middle-to-late 1950s to drive what became known in the industry as a creative revolution in presenting clients’ messages. Not tied to a particular employer, he consulted for a number of Madison Avenue agencies, bringing with him a modern art aesthetic, inspired by the Bauhaus less-is-more style and the visual language of Abstract Expressionism.

Mr. Palladino’s conception for “Psycho” originally appeared on the book jacket for Robert Bloch’s 1959 novel of that title, published by Simon & Schuster. Credit Tony Palladino
On many projects he collaborated with some of the most renowned art directors and designers of the day, including George Lois, who was a former high school classmate, as well as Milton Glaser and R. O. Blechman. With them Mr. Palladino produced compelling typography for book jackets, posters and magazines, relying heavily on conceptual thinking — what Mr. Lois called “big idea” advertising — and wit.

Mr. Palladino liked to make quirky associations between everyday objects and letterforms. In an ad for the restaurant Positano, which was at Park Avenue and 20th Street, he photographed glass salt and pepper shakers of various sizes as opposing pieces on a chessboard. In a newspaper ad for the antiwar organization Women Strike for Peace, the headline said, “Did you hear the one about the third world war?” Under it were three square panels. The first said, “Knock, knock.” The second said, “Who’s there?” The third was empty.

“People don’t want to look at advertising,” Mr. Palladino once said in an interview in Graphis magazine.“People want to get entertained intellectually.”

Mr. Palladino designed the propulsive blue-and-white logo for Conrail, the Northeast railroad that operated 1976 to 1999. Credit Tony Palladino
Anthony Americo Paladino was born on April 6, 1930, and raised in East Harlem, where, he said, “there wasn’t what you would call a great excitement about art.” Neither of his Italian-immigrant parents spoke English, and he resisted speaking Italian, so he liked to communicate at home through drawings.

His formal training was limited. Though he attended the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan, where he took art and design courses, he said he had taught himself to conceive artistic ideas.

Mr. Palladino often trekked around New York in search of unusual vintage signs and other graphic artifacts that might inspire conceptual projects. Of his many recruitment posters for the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, one depicted two smashed automobile hubcaps that had been repainted and transformed into women’s hats, suggesting the transformative power of the artist.

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