In Memorium: Graphics Innovator Jack Summerford

Jack H. Summerford passed away December 5, 2019 in Fort Worth TX at the age of 76. He was respected as a graphic design innovator. After graduating from Washington University in Saint Louis, he spent 13 years honing his design skills at various agencies before founding Summerford Design in 1978. His unassuming yet articulate style of interacting inspired confidence and respect from clients and peers alike.  Steven Heller, while an art director at The New York Times, commented: “Jack Summerford is ostensibly a traditionalist whose work – though often underscored by humor – builds upon the basic tenets of modern design.”
Summerford’s work can be seen in locations such as the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, Brandenbur-gische Kunstammlugen Cottbus (Germany) and MusÈe de la Poste (Paris). He received countless awards throughout his career, and his iconic poster, Helvetica has remained a source of inspiration to graphic designers worldwide since its inception in 1979. In addition, he was active in many service organizations. He was a director of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) at the national level and was a founding director of the Texas chapter, ultimately becoming the first AIGA Fellow in Texas. He was a president and director of the Dallas Society of Visual Communications and a recipient of that organization’s lifetime achievement award. His essays on design were published in many design periodicals and studied across the globe. He taught senior level portfolio courses at the University of Texas at Arlington for nearly a decade.
In recent years, Summerford was called “a good friend” to the Department of Design at Texas Christian University (TCU). He served on the TCU Graphic Design Advisory Council, where he earned the title of Council Member Emeritus. He was a regular contributor to the senior-level “Visiting Designers” class, an elite, invitation-only course in the university’s Graphic Design program. “Students always looked forward to Jack’s visit in particular–his reputation having preceded him,” explained Professor Lewis Glaser, Chair of TCU’s Department of Graphic Design. “He was extremely generous with his time and wisdom, had a diplomatic but firm manner with students and was a close friend to the TCU design community. He is dearly missed.” In retirement, he also continued to embrace forays into creative writing and design, such as his book, Obvious? (published by Clampitt Paper Co/Dallas) and a book of outdoor illustrations created by revered Texas illustrator Jack Unruh. He also served on the City of Fort Worth’s Urban Design Commission.
Above all, Summerford loved his family. Jane, his wife of 54 years, was a true life partner and best friend. In recent years, he and Jane divided their time between grandchildren living in Fort Worth and New York, along with trips to Santa Fe. He had great respect and admiration for daughter Haily Summerford, son John Summerford and wife Denise Summerford; three grandchildren; and sister Jeanne Lietz and her family. A vegetarian and runner (13 marathons including Boston at age 60) Jack was in excellent health prior to his passing. He is deeply missed by family, friends, colleagues and admirers. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be made to: Siteman Cancer Center Glioblastoma Fund.