Robert Miles Runyan was a pioneer of visual corporate communications, the concept of an integrated package of logos, trademarks and graphics that establish the identity of businesses in the public's consciousness.
In 1959, Mr. Runyan produced his breakthrough work, the annual report for Litton Industries, which changed how corporations presented their yearly financial statements to stockholders. Federal law required that this information be released regularly, but most such reports were dry and formulaic.
The 1959 Litton report, however, looked more like a magazine or even an art book than a spreadsheet.
Mr. Runyan played a "major role in redefining this genre," the design historian Philip B. Meggs said in "A History of Graphic Design."
He did this by creating a format that combined the editorial pacing of a magazine and the typographic and pictorial elegance of an art book. The Litton report was the first to contain distinctive graphics and modern still-life photographs of antique scientific artifacts, providing what Mr. Runyan called "symbiology," and illustrating a narrative about the young company, which was founded in 1954, and its relationship to the broader history of science. Mr. Runyan viewed the annual report as a tool to build faith and confidence among the employees and stockholders as well as to symbolize the company's overall mission.
Crosby Kelly, Litton's former manager of investor relations, said at the time that this annual report was "something like a flag," useful in bolstering morale.
Mr. Runyan's work was among the first to present " 'the big picture,' the major social and economic trends of the times -- and then show how the individual company fits within this framework," said a 1971 article in Graphis, a design trade magazine. The report won numerous professional awards and accolades and brought Mr. Runyan hundreds of other commissions. His concept remains the standard in the graphic design field to this day.
Robert Miles Runyan was born in Falls City, Neb., on April 18, 1925. He joined the Marine Corps in 1943 and later attended both the Art Center and Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. In 1956, he established Robert Miles Runyan & Associates in Playa del Rey, Calif., initially designing advertisements and record covers. His first corporate assignment was for Litton, which was then an obscure Beverly Hills military contractor. Within a short time, he was in great demand for design typified by abstract iconography and crisp typography. During a single year his firm produced 48 annual reports.
But despite a list of international clients that he worked for developing logos, identities and packages -- including Transamerica, Times Mirror, Mattel, Vuarnet of France, Unibanco of Mexico, the Los Angeles Rams, Rockwell International, and Caesar's Palace -- Mr. Runyan did not fit the stereotype of a company man. His version of the three-piece business suit was a tight-fitting cowboy shirt, stove-pipe jeans and lizard-skin Western boots, worn with a brush of a mustache that made him look like the Marlboro Man.
Both his office and his Victorian-style home were stuffed with his countless Americana collectibles, ranging from more than a dozen illuminated, working gas pumps to two hundred "Do Not Disturb" door-knob signs. Some of his collection turned up in his designs.
For the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, Mr. Runyan was given what he considered the chance of a lifetime, the opportunity to compete for the commission to design the official symbol. After 3,500 sketches he devised the "Stars in Motion" logo that appeared on everything sold at the games. Of this project, he said: “What I achieved can never be taken away. I'm etched in history.”