The New York Times reflects on the life and work of the Rev. Robert Palladino, priest and monk, who is said to have inspired the iconic design of Apple computers’ fonts.
As a Trappist brother, Father Palladino learned his art in silence, honed it over years of study and eventually, on leaving his order, taught it to others.
Into a world of “genteel scholarship and quiet contemplation … burst a young college dropout named Steve Jobs,” says the Times.
Jobs audited Palladino’s calligraphy class after dropping his enrollment at Reed College in Portland, OR, for financial reasons. He credited the elegance of Apple’s display fonts to Palladino’s teaching.
“Ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts,”
Jobs told the Stanford class of 2005 at their commencement.
Palladino was born in 1932, the youngest of eight children.
He grew fascinated, he later said, by the sublime marriage of form and function that writing embodied, especially when it came to communicating the word of God.
He studied calligraphy as a young Trappist monk, but left the order after the reforms of Vatican II changed its way of life, was released from his priestly vows, and married. After his wife’s death, he was received back into the priesthood, and served parishes in Oregon whilst continuing to teach calligraphy.
The New York Times ends its appreciation with ironic observation.
Though Father Palladino demonstrably influenced Mr. Jobs, the converse cannot be said. To the end of his life, Father Palladino never owned, or even once used, a computer.
“I have my hand,” he would say, “and I have my pen. That’s it.”
Robert Palladino died last month at the age of 83. Read more about his influence and legacy here.