Posted Tuesday, October 27, 2020 - 11:12 AM

Pratt Remembers Former Faculty Member and Chairperson Joseph Roberts


Photo by Bill Kontzias

Joseph Roberts, Communications Design educator and designer, passed away on October 24, 2020. He was 71.

Roberts began teaching at Pratt Institute in 1981 and served as chair of the Undergraduate Communications Design Department from 1994 to 2005. From 1997 to 2001, he served as president of the Academic Senate. Following his time as chairperson, Roberts returned to teaching full time, but continued to mentor his peers by chairing the Peer Review Committee. Assigning projects to his students that stressed highly creative solutions, Roberts seemed to find something funny and truthful in everything design-related or otherwise. He was an invaluable mentor to countless faculty and students, retiring from Pratt in fall 2018.

Former colleague Scott Santoro remembers watching Communications Design grow to a “giant-sized department” under Roberts’ tenure. With wit and humor, Santoro recalls Roberts effortlessly chairing the department.

On every level imaginable, he was generous with his fellow faculty members in the department, particularly supporting those at the start of their academic careers.

Roberts received a BFA in Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts in 1970. He was president of Klauber/Roberts, a graphic and exhibit design corporation in New York City. As principal, he worked as a designer for corporate identities, annual reports and financial literature, retail visual merchandising, trade advertising, publication design, and publicity campaigns for AT&T, Ortho Pharmaceuticals, CIGNA, AIG, SuperStructures, Abrams Publishers, Aperture, Yale University Press, and the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation. Roberts previously was art director of the Philmont Software Mill, a computer consulting firm in Philmont, NY.

Some of Roberts’ wisdom can be found in Santoro’s 2014 Guide to Graphic Design where he was profiled in a Designer’s Vignette outlining fundamental design concepts:

“When a designer can cause more than just a reaction, and takes us to a point where there is a returned response, then a solid communication is made,” Roberts said. “The setup causes meaning to be created. Within the confines of a design problem, this is an effective way to get people engaged and get them to remember your design.”