NEW YORK — Quentin Fiore, a graphic designer whose work helped magnify and popularize Marshall McLuhan’s maxim that “the medium is the message,” died on April 13 at a care facility in North Canaan, Conn. He was 99.
Bianca Fiore La Porta, his daughter, said the cause was complications of bronchitis.
Mr. Fiore spent much of his career doing conventional design work for large corporations and book jackets for university presses. But he was best known for his book collaborations in the 1960s with McLuhan, the communications theorist, and later with antiwar activist Jerry Rubin, and inventor and visionary Buckminster Fuller.
By the time of their collaboration, McLuhan had already coined the phrase “the medium is the message” in his book “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man” (1964). His point was that the medium in which we acquire information is more important than the information itself. He was speaking chiefly of television and the neurological and temperamental effects of its mosaic of dots and lights on the viewer, but he later enjoyed a revival as an oracle of the cyber age.
Mr. Fiore’s first book with McLuhan was “The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects” (1967). “Massage” was a printer’s error, but McLuhan, a wordsmith who delighted in puns, liked the typo and kept it, believing that it amplified his theory about how different forms of media thoroughly “massage” the senses in the “mass age” of communications.
The book, which Mr. Fiore initiated, was a kinetic interpretation of McLuhan’s philosophy. Some pages were printed backward, to be read in a mirror. Some of the writing was upside down. Some pages contained text superimposed over pictures.
Mr. Fiore said his goal was to reduce “complex ideas to simple signs, glyphs, patches of text.”
He wanted his style to “convey the spirit, the ‘populist’ outcry of the era,” Mr. Fiore said in a 1992 interview with the designer and writer J. Abbott Miller. “The linearity of the text in an average book wouldn’t do. After all, the medium was the message!”
The result was revolutionary in terms of design.
“Fiore took an intensely active role in making McLuhan’s fundamental ideas accessible to an increasingly visually literate audience,” the designer Steven Heller, a former art director for The New York Times Book Review, said in an email.
“Fiore’s design,” he said, “was the first interactive/interconnected book of the information age.”
Quentin Fiore was born on Feb. 12, 1920, in the Bronx, N.Y., to Antonino and Bice (Bononi) Fiore. His father was a tailor, and his mother helped her husband with the sewing. They raised their six children in Brooklyn.
Mr. Fiore studied at the Art Students League of New York with celebrated German artist George Grosz. He also studied with Hans Hofmann, an abstract expressionist. But he had trouble making ends meet and turned to calligraphy and type design. He worked for modernist designer Lester Beall, known for his posters, and for magazines, creating hand-lettered headlines.
Mr. Fiore declared himself a conscientious objector during World War II, as did two of his four brothers, and was assigned to camps in California, Colorado and New Hampshire, fighting forest fires and rescuing lost or injured skiers, La Porta said.
He married Jeanne DeWolfe Raseman, an artist, in 1946, and they had two daughters, Bianca and Ondina. He is survived by them and three grandchildren.