With sadness, SigEp announces the passing of Citation recipient Bruce Blackburn, Cincinnati ’61. Blackburn was a highly regarded artist and pioneer in the field of graphic design. He was the creative talent behind well-known marketing campaigns for high-profile corporate clients such as IBM, Prudential and Champion. He’s probably best known, however, for his contributions to two iconic designs that defined the American spirit: the NASA “worm” logo in 1975 and the logo for the United States’ 1976 bicentennial.
Through these designs and many others, he lived out his belief that good design should create an image “in the public eye that is permanent.”
As an undergraduate, Blackburn studied design and served as president of SigEp’s Ohio Theta chapter at Cincinnati. Following graduation, he served as a U.S. Navy communications officer for several years before embarking on his design career.
Tom Miller, ’61, first met Blackburn when the two joined SigEp in 1956. He said Blackburn’s talent was obvious, even then. “All of us in the [Ohio Theta chapter] could tell that Bruce had a certain star quality,” Miller stated, noting that Blackburn won several design awards as an undergrad. “He was also a great extemporaneous speaker and was never better than when he was talking about art. He was able to present his work well, but he was also able to listen well and could draw things out of clients when they weren’t even sure of what they wanted.”
Blackburn created logos for the U.S. Department of Transportation and Army Corps of Engineers and was a finalist in the International Olympic Committee’s competition to design a logo for the centennial games.
In addition to his professional accomplishments, Blackburn shared his skills with the Fraternity, designing SigEp’s red heart logo. In honor of Brother Blackburn’s distinguished career and professional contribution to our Fraternity, he was awarded the SigEp Citation in 1977. In 1985, he received the Presidential Award for Design Excellence for his work on the NASA logo.
Former Fraternity Executive Director Chuck White, Western Michigan ’62, reflected on Blackburn’s phenomenal career and his involvement in SigEp: “In addition to his corporate work, he volunteered with SigEp and the North American Interfraternity Conference in designing their communication packages,” White said. “Bruce was a strong believer in fraternity based on the experience he gained as a member of the Ohio Theta chapter.”