Letter to Gino Lee

Dear Gino,

I’d hoped the news was untrue. Surely it was unbelievable: how could you die? You were only forty-nine. You are only forty-nine–I’ll keep using the present tense. You’re still alive to me.

I have vivid memories of you from over ten years ago. There you are, apparently one of the last smokers in California, cupping a cigarette in your hand, trying to keep the wind tunnel outside the Metrius office on Brannan Street from killing your smoke, your characteristic, urbane, thin-man’s slouch a welcome profile in those garish, clumsy, overconfident, dot-com boom years. I remember your voice, deliberate, drawling, as you think aloud, treating every workday as one big Harvard grad seminar. I love the cultivated, wry tone of your e-mails and chat messages, proof that a keyboard doesn’t enforce simplistic language. Your one-line musing about the impact of the Rapture on the scrapbooking industry makes me laugh to this day.

I was too coarse to appreciate that we should’ve taken all the time in the world to talk, deadlines be damned. I know we disagreed when you seemed to think my staying late at the office was so that we could discuss Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One . I profited from our acquaintance all the same.

From you I’ve learned that so much of our world can be made appealing. Your attitude towards the ugly and poorly designed isn’t snobbish condemnation, but gracious bewilderment: why use bad things? Why make them? You handled fountain pens in a world of dry erase markers.

But I and everybody saddened by this news have to let you go today, arm-in-arm with Miss Thanatogenous. I promise a longer conversation next time.


  • Erin

    Sorry for your loss…

  • Anonymous

    This was lovely, Melanie. Thank you for sharing…

    • And thank you, Brian, for breaking the sad news to all of us.

      • Anonymous

        I hope you’ll join us Sunday at the Comstock Saloon, from 4 to 6p.

  • Winand

    Gino was my best friend.  Your letter is right on the mark, lovely and beautifully written.  Thanks for sharing it.  

    • And thank you for your comment–it’s so hard to convey Gino’s depth, intelligence, and charisma in just plain words.

  • Nicely said Melanie.

    • @Joe–what terrific proof of Gino’s lingering influence: years later, the people he brought together still connect.

  • Jenny Little

    Melanie, this is lovely and has so much of what I remember so fondly about Gino. My heartfelt thanks to you for this.

    • And thank you, Jenny. Still impossible to believe, isn’t it?

  • rangert

    I only recently found this beautiful post from Melanie. I worked with Gino in the late 90’s when I was creative director at Hearst Digital. I found Studio Verso and hired them. There are less than a handful of people that had profound and positive impact on me as a designer and human being, Gino is on that list. I randomly found out about Gino’s passing, feelings reminiscent of my older brother passing a few years ago. I don’t how or why but I really wish that I had more time with him back then, I will miss him even more now.

    • Melanie Archer

      @rangert- Thank you for sharing your memories of Gino! I think we all have similar regrets of not spending enough time with him.