Letter: Robin Fior brought fun and an imaginative approach to the workplace

We have lost a creative designer of real influence in Robin Fior, and also an individual of fascinating wit and great intellectual power. Richard Hollis does not dwell on Robin's short salaried life at Thomas Nelson, then the Thomson Organization's educational publishing house, but as secondary school publisher during his spell there – and "spell" is the right word – I can add a footnote.

It is hard to imagine anyone less suited to life in an office dependent on efficient workflow. Yet Robin cast a spell that usurped our careful processes, and after a short time only a few questioned why we were designing covers for biology textbooks by reference to Barthes and Lévi-Strauss, or why my history topic books could not be designed without careful discussion of Lukács or Gramsci.

And just as Robin's range and erudition were huge, so his sense of fun was all-pervasive, and his charm carried him to unlikely conquests in a management that was as conventional and conservative as he was anarchic. Thus I found myself in the queue behind him in the upper room of the Museum Tavern in Bloomsbury, London, as we joined Clive Jenkins's Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs trade union. For Robin, the NUJ was far too right wing, and he brought many of his Nelson colleagues, and his friend JG Ballard, into Jenkins's new group that night. Recognition did not follow.

At some point, management did recognise that Robin was not an organisational man, but not before colleagues like myself had been utterly amazed by his ability to delay action until the very last minute, and then produce brilliant and incisive results that bore little relation to any of our preceding discussions. He was totally unlike his predecessor, Peter Kindersley, but his original mind and wonderful humour made for a definition of book designer that still resonates with me.

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