Benjamin “Ben” Rosen was born on October 20, 1920, in Detroit, Michigan, according to his World War II draft card. He was the son of Jacob and Lena, both Russian immigrants.
The 1920 United States Census was enumerated nine months before Rosen’s birth. At the time his mother was the head of the household that included three daughters, Mary, Ida and Dorothy and a son, David. They were Detroit residents at 699 Third.
The 1930 census said Rosen, his parents and three siblings lived at 7619 Byron Avenue in Detroit. His father was a retail hardware merchant whose house was valued at $16,500.
In January 1938, Rosen graduated from Cass Technical High School. He did not have a senior photograph in the yearbook.
The Triangle, January 1938, Ben Rosen in column three
According to his obituary, Rosen continued his training at Cranbrook Academy and, in 1940, moved to Brooklyn, New York to study at Pratt Institute. He has not been found in the 1940 census.
On February 16, 1942, Rosen signed his World War II draft card. His address was 404 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, New York. Rosen was a freelance artist working in Manhattan at 250 East 43rd Street. His description was five feet ten inches, 145 pounds, with brown eyes and hair.
Rosen enlisted in the Army on August 14, 1942 at Fort Jay, Governors Island, New York.
During World War II he was classified as Aerial Motion Picture Photographer assigned to the 8th Air Force, 14th Photo Reconnaissance unit based at Mount Farm Airfield, then at Chalgrove Airfield, both in Oxfordshire, England.
Rosen was discharged in 1946.
On January 23, 1947, Rosen and Jane E. Beebe obtained a Manhattan marriage license and were married two days later.
In 1948 he formed Ben Rosen Associates.
The 1950 census recorded Rosen, his wife and daughter, Laura, in Queens, New York at 22176 Horace Harding Boulevard. His occupation was self-employed advertising designer.
Type and Typography, Reinhold Publishing Corporation, 1963, selected pages
Rosen passed away on September 7, 2020. The New York Times, November 22, 2020, published a death notice.
Ben Rosen died on September 7, with family by his side, just missing his 100th birthday by a few weeks. A visual communications consultant and graphic designer, he was best known as author of two classic graphic design reference books, Type & Typography: The Designer’s Type Book, and The Corporate Search for Visual Identity. His graphic design work was part of the post World War II period of explosive growth in creative graphic design in the U.S. In 2005, Mr. Rosen’s surviving work and papers were acquired by the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising and Marketing History, a department of the Rare Book, Manuscript and Special Collections Library of Duke University. Born and raised in Detroit, he attended Cass Technical High School and Cranbrook Academy. In 1940, he came to New York to attend Pratt Institute. During World War II he was classified as Aerial Motion Picture Photographer assigned to the 8th Air Force, 14th Photo Reconnaissance unit based at Mount Farm Airfield, then at Chalgrove Airfield, both in Oxfordshire, England. Returning to New York in 1946, Mr. Rosen began his graphic design career, opening shop as Ben Rosen Associates in 1948. He accumulated recognition and awards from the Art Directors Club, The AIGA, Package Design Council and a variety of trade publications. His client roster came to include Exxon, The Equitable Life Assurance Co., Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Tishman Realty & Construction Company, Standard Brands International, Philip Morris Inc., The United Nations Association, CCMI/McGraw Hill, and Richardson Vicks. When his book, Type and Typography was first published in 1963, hot metal type was the norm. The type foundries that produced it rarely published full fonts with their promotional material for fear their designs would be copied by competing foundries. Mr. Rosen convinced foundries from around the world to make available to him a broad spectrum of complete fonts. He selected the best versions to include in the book, accompanied by related design and historic information. Known among graphic design students as “the Bible”, the book remained in print for over 30 years, with later versions including digital type. His 1970 book, The Corporate Search of Visual Identity addressed the relatively new discipline of corporate visual identification, describing the process from both the designer and corporate viewpoints. By showing some 16 outstanding visual identification programs in detail, he presented designers and corporate personnel insights into the best work done in that field. In 1975, Mr. Rosen relocated his studio from New York to his residence in Hohokus, New Jersey. Gradually moving toward retirement, he spent some 10 years as an active member of the Art Advisory Committee of Bergen Community College. Mr. Rosen moved to The Woodlands, Texas after his wife Jane died in 2012. He is survived by his daughter Laura and her husband Adrian, his son Ralph and his wife Mary, his grandson David, granddaughter Sarah and her husband Mike, and great grandsons Henry and Jack.
(Updated and revised December 8, 2022. Next post on Monday: Bone Man)