S. Neil Fujita, an innovative graphic designer who designed book jackets for classics such as Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” and Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather,” died on Oct. 23, 2010 in Long Island, New York, the New York Times reported. He was 89.
He is reported to have died from complications of a stroke.
Sadamitsu Fujita was born in Waimea, Hawai‘i in 1921, the son of a Japanese immigrant who worked as a blacksmith on a sugar plantation. He was assigned the name Neil at a Honolulu boarding school.
He moved to Los Angeles upon graduating high school, taking classes at the Chouinard Art Institute before being forcibly relocated to the Heart Mountain, Wyo. concentration camp during World War II. Fujita enlisted in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 1943, seeing combat in Italy and France before becoming a translator in the Pacific theater, the New York Times reported.
Coming back to Chouinard after the war, he married fellow student Aiko Tamaki, who passed away in 2006.
Trained as a painter, Fujita was hired by Columbia Records in 1954 to design album covers, such as Charles Mingus’s “Mingus Ah Um.” He left Columbia in 1960 to start his own firm, and later joined a subsidiary of a public relations firm that evolved into Fujita Design.
Over the years, Fujita had taught at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art, the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and the Parsons School of Design in New York City. He moved to Southold, Long Island in the mid-1990s to return to painting.