Rev. Robert Palladino, a former priest and calligraphy teacher who inspired Apple’s typography, has died.

Rev. Robert Palladino, the monk who imbued Steve Jobs with the love of typography so key to Apple’s success, died February 26, aged 83.

Beginning as a Trappist monk, Father Palladino silently learned the importance and elegance of calligraphy over many years, taught by the monastery’s scribe. After the Vatican was reformed in the early 1960s, Fr. Palladino left the monastery, saying in a handwritten memoir: “You cannot like that way of life unless you are completely enamored of it. When it changed, I could no longer dedicate myself to it. It no longer satisfied my longing for union with God.”

Upon leaving his monastic order, he began teaching classes to further spread the word of his craft. By drawing on a monastic scribal tradition that went back centuries, he was able to teach students at Reed College in Portland from 1969 until 1984, when he retired.

Fr. Palladino’s approach to calligraphy went beyond the mere presentation of words. It was a way of making a message more appealing to the reader, by elegantly wrapping it up in an eye-catching manner.

One of Reed’s most famous students, although perhaps better known as a dropout, was Apple founder Steve Jobs. Jobs convinced college staff to allow him to attend classes of his choosing even after officially dropping out, and Fr. Palladino’s was the one which left the most lasting impression on him.

For years afterwards, Jobs would credit Fr. Palladino with not only encouraging him to package the original Apple computers with a variety of elegant fonts, a then-revolutionary concept, but also with his fascination with design that allowed the burgeoning computer company to stand out from the crowd and bring their products to a wider market.

When asked about his memories of Jobs by the Catholic Sentinel in 2013, Fr. Palladino merely replied, “He was most pleasant.”


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