Rudolph de Harak, an influential designer whose many prominent projects included the timeline and typographic displays for the Egyptian Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the futuristic entryway for the quirkily embellished office building at 127 John Street in Lower Manhattan.
Mr. de Harak's graphic and environmental designs for public and private institutions and exhibitions were rooted in European modern rationalism but used a playful American vernacular. His design for the John Street entrance and facade transformed this cold glass and steel building into a carnival through brightly colored canvas-covered scaffolds that serve as both shelter and sun deck, a three-story-high digital clock made of 72 square modules with numerals that light up the exact date, hour, minute and second, and a sci-fi-inspired neon-illuminated tunnel leading to the front door.
For the centerpiece of the Cummins Engine Museum in Columbus, Ind., Mr. de Harak conceived a display he called an ''exploding'' diesel engine; it hangs by wires in midair, revealing its every part, including all the tiny nuts and bolts. It was one of his many approaches to extracting useful, fascinating information from the most minute details.
His photographic timeline and information signs and panels for the Metropolitan's Egyptian Wing, commissioned by the architect Kevin Roche, are still in use after two decades. This project combined his lifelong passion for clear communication and elegant typography. The project involved exhaustive research of every nuance of the magnificent collection and took 10 years to complete.
Rudolph de Harak was born in Culver City, Calif., on April 10, 1924. While he was in his preteens, his family moved to New York City, where he attended the School of Industrial Arts. After serving in the infantry in World War II, he returned to Los Angeles to join a small art service and advertising agency and pursued graphic design.
Finding it hard to earn a living, he moved once again to New York in 1950. He took a job as promotion art director of Seventeen magazine and later started his own small design office in 1952. At the time Mr. de Harak did illustrations for Esquire, collages consisting of photographs, drawings and found materials that he referred to as jazzlike improvisations. Not coincidentally he used this same method when designing jazz album covers for the Columbia, Oxford, Circle and Westminster labels.
He once said about his design method, ''I was always looking for the hidden order, trying to somehow either develop new forms or manipulate existing form.'' The nearly 350 covers he designed throughout the 60's for McGraw-Hill paperbacks, with subjects like philosophy, anthropology, psychology and sociology, offered him a place to test the limits of conceptual art and photography. He used the opportunity to experiment with a variety of approaches inspired by Dada, Abstract Expressionism and Op-Art. His McGraw-Hill paperbacks, especially, had a strong influence on contemporary graphic design.
Not content to work in one medium or genre, Mr. de Harak created exhibitions, including a celebration of American sports for the 1970 Osaka World's Fair. He designed shopping bags for the Met and delivery-truck graphics for The New York Times. He had commissions from the Atomic Energy Commission, the National Park Service, the National Endowment for the Arts and the United States Postal Service.
His spirit of restlessness carried over to his own firm. ''He would build up an office and fire them all, and then he'd start up again,'' the designer Thomas Geismar of Chermayeff & Geismar recalled.
Mr. de Harak taught graphic and exhibition design at Cooper Union for 25 years and was a visiting professor at Yale, Alfred University, Parsons School of Design and Pratt Institute. In 1993 he received a medal for lifetime achievement from the American Institute of Graphic Artists.
In his late 60's he sold his design practice and left New York with his wife, moving to a home that they designed and built in Maine. He played jazz saxophone and made and exhibited paintings that were hard-edged geometric forms, which, he said, were not abstract ''because geometry is as real as faces and landscapes.''