Designer Jacqueline Casey Dies at 65


Jacqueline S. Casey, a graphic designer internationally recognized for her "elegant posters" for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, died Monday, May 18, at her home in Brookline after a long struggle with cancer.

An exhibit of her work, " MIT/Casey, Jacqueline S. Casey A retrospective: MIT's graphic design in evolution," is currently being shown at the Compton Gallery at MIT. The exhibit opened April 25 and continues through September.

Ms. Casey joined MIT in 1955 and was assigned to produce summer session materials. She quickly became an important figure in MIT's pioneering Office of Design Services which was among the first in the nation to hire a designer (Muriel R. Cooper, now professor of visual studies at MIT's Media Laboratory) to represent it graphically. Ms. Casey remained with MIT until her death and was director of the Office of Design Services from 1972 to 1989 when she retired and became a visiting design scholar at the MIT Media Laboratory.

Ms. Casey and Professor Cooper were students together at art school and became friends and colleagues. Professor Cooper was instrumental in bringing her to MIT.

"The spriit of MIT nurtured her work, and in turn her work nurtured the humanity of MIT," Professor Cooper said.

The MIT Museum, which mounted the exhibit currently being shown at the Compton Gallery, also published a book on her work, "Posters, Jacqueline S. Casey: Thirty Years of Design at MIT."

Joseph P. Ansell, chair of the Visual Arts Department at Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio, in an appreciation of her work written for the book, said she created "some of the most elegant posters in America. . . Her sense of proportion is at once precise and measured, organic and humane. These seemingly opposite qualities are clearly appropriate for her subjects and her audience. Most of her posters announce arts events at [the] MIT, an institution known primarily for teaching and research in science and technology. Yet, surprisingly, those posters for other events (scientific lectures and academic programs, for example) are equally imaginative, lively and personal. MIT is, first and foremost, an institution dedicated to learning in all its varied, humanistic facets. Through careful analysis, Casey uncovers the essence of each subject and communicates the creative spark which is the source of all ."

Nicholas P. Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Laboratory, writing in the same book, recalled meeting her when he was an 18-year-old sophomore at MIT.

"We had lunch together almost every day for four years. During that time I loitered in the offices of Design Services where I learned all I know about graphic design. I learned how a design could be at once Swiss in its cleanness, Italian in its imagination, and playful like Jackie herself. . . Jackie always says she cannot teach. Ha! She doesn't need to. She has already taught thousands of young designers through her work. . . Those of us who have had the privilege of working with Jackie did nothing but learn from her insights. She captures the essence of a design program in less time than it takes most of us to understand its constituent parts. What is most extraordinary is that she does all of this with profound humor, which, in my mind, is what separates great from good design."

Ms. Casey was born in Quincy, Mass., on April 20, 1927, and received a certificate in fashion design and illustration and a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Massachusetts College of Art in 19___49. She then worked in fashion illustration, advertising, interior decorating and trade publications before joining MIT in 1955.

Her work has been exhibited in one-woman shows at the MIT Hayden Corridor Gallery (1972, 1979, 1983, 1984), Chelsea School of Art, London, (1978), MIT Burton House Gallery (1979), London College of Printing (1980), MIT Museum (1985), the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York, (1989), and Massart's Massart, Boston, (1989). Ms. Casey's work was also represented in many group exhibitions in this country and abroad, including Images of Survival: The 40th Anniversary of the Bombing of Hiroshima, which was shown in Japan and other countries.

She was a guest lecturer at many museums and schools, including the Massachusetts College of Art, Yale University, Carnegie-Mellon University, Cooper Union and Kent State and had been a judge of several national exhibitions.

Examples of her work have been acquired for permanent collection by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, New York, the USIA, and the Library of Congress. Her work is also represented in many graphic design magazines and annuals and in books on the history of graphic design

She was the recipient of the William J. Gunn Award in 1988 given by the Creative Club of Boston. She received an honorary doctorate of fine arts from the Massachusetts College of Art in 1990. She was appointed by the late President Bartlett A. Giamatti of Yale to the Visiting Committee of the Yale School of Graphic Design. She was a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale and of the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

Ms. Casey was married to William Casey who died in 1975. She is survived by an aunt, Phyllis Keane of Lowell; two uncles, Stanley Kingston of Hull and Richard Ronan of Plymouth; and a cousin, Kevin Keane of Brookline.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10am Friday, May 22,

at St. Columbkille's Church, 325 Market St.,Brighton. Burial will be in Mount Hope Cemetery, Boston.

A version of this
article appeared in the
May 20, 1992

issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume
36, Number
31).


Topics: Obituaries

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