Master typographer and designer

Jarlath Hayes, who died on May 17th aged 76, was a master typographer and designer who gave his best years as a man of letters…

Jarlath Hayes, who died on May 17th aged 76, was a master typographer and designer who gave his best years as a man of letters working within Irish publishing.

Jarlath Fabian Hayes was born to Richard and Lilian (nΘe Delahunty of Kilkenny) in Dublin, where his father was an accountant, on September 11th, 1924. The fourth of six children, he was educated at the Christian Brothers, Synge Street, and began a career in advertising in 1945. He also lectured, part-time, in advertising design at Rathmines Technical Institute.

In 1958 he was a founder member of the Institute of Creative Advertising and Design which promoted standards in the industry; in 1963, with Giles Talbot-Kelly and Bob Poole, he formed Group 3 design. In 1967 he was given the McConnell's Award for work on behalf of students.

His first and abiding love, though, lay in type and book design.


One of his more interesting early commissions was for Conor Cruise O'Brien and the Department of External Affairs, when he was asked to design propaganda material for the All-Party Anti-Partition Conference held in Dublin's Mansion House in January 1949.

During the 1960s he designed The Harp (1964-72), a trade journal sold to Guinness employees for 6d an issue on the principle that nothing given away for free was likely to be appreciated; later he designed Books Ireland and Metre, the international poetry magazine edited by David Wheatley.

After 1970 he went freelance, working with his daughter Susan for RT╔, C≤ras Trβchtβla, the Department of Labour, and numerous commercial and professional bodies as a designer of corporate images, symbols and house journals. From 1979 onwards he operated out of his own studio in south Dublin.

A traditionalist, Jarlath Hayes sought perfection of form in the deployment of classic serif typefaces.

He drew his own type, Tuam Uncial, highly commended in a competition for the design of an Irish uncial typeface sponsored by Letraset, who adopted it for commercial use; it became familiar to a generation of Glenroe viewers on RT╔ television where it featured in the credits, and through its widespread use on shopfronts in provincial towns.

His trademark non-aligning numerals and letter-spaced capital letters civilized a generation born to digital imaging.

From 1973 to 1986 he designed for Liam Miller and The Dolmen Press, and he fashioned book jackets, title-pages and layouts for a roll-call of Irish publishing houses including Gill &Macmillan (whose corporate logo he devised), Four Courts Press, and The Lilliput Press, setting his hand to some of the major books published in Ireland during recent decades: Holinshed's Irish Chronicle, Kinsella's Fifteen Dead, Trees of Ireland, Nature in Ireland, Hubert Butler's volumes of essays, a series of art books on Jack B. Yeats, Sarah Purser, Harry Clarke, Roderic O'Conor and Edward Maguire, Postage Stamps of Ireland 1922-1982, Sweeney Astray, Aisling GhΘar, Irish Type Design, Treasures from the National Library of Ireland, and the Dublin Edition of Ulysses.

His incidental commissions included the monumental lettering for a neighbour's headstone, a house sign for the poet Richard Murphy, a Stations of the Cross for the Franciscans at Rosnowlagh in Donegal, and two 1995 stamp designs to commemorate the founding of the United Nations in 1945.

He was one of the designers representing Ireland invited to submit designs for the Euro coinage in 1997; his design for the obverse of the Irish version of the currency was accepted.

Jarlath Hayes's other passion was for timber. He made chairs, tables, bookcases and cabinets for friends and family. He loved his Guinness, a good claret and lively debate, and spending time with his grandchildren.

His legacy rests on the bookshelves of every library in the country.

He is survived by his wife Oonagh, son Dara, daughters Susan, Hilary, Ruth and Bronwyn and sisters Rita and Alma.

Jarlath Hayes: born 1924; died, May 2001