Michael Cronan, 61, was a branding guru with a knack for names. He dreamed up the moniker “TiVo” on his own and “Kindle” in collaboration with his wife, Karin Hibma. They were partners in the Berkeley naming, visual identity and brand strategy firm ::CRONAN:: until his death Tuesday, Jan. 1. Cronan had battled colon cancer.
Terry Lorant Photography
Michael Cronan and his wife, Karin Hibma.
“Michael and I met at Sac State when we were both art students,” says Hibma, a graduate of Sacramento’s Encina High School. “John Fitzgibbon was the art chair, and he brought in all of these young California artists as teachers.
“It was a very innovative faculty, and the great thing about Sac State was that there were a lot of overlapping disciplines where Michael found interesting dialogues,” Hibma says. I remember (underground artist) R. Crumb playing music on the (Library) Quad with his band, and the Art and Mythology professor, Kurt von Meier, brought in Joseph Campbell (author of The Power of Myth) to speak. It was just a great art department.”
After graduating from Hiram Johnson High School in Sacramento, Cronan enrolled in California College of Arts & Crafts (now California College of the Arts) in Oakland and left school to travel throughout Europe. He also traveled to Israel, where he worked on archaeological digs. “He was hired by the finder of the Dead Sea Scrolls and did drawings of the sites and artifacts they discovered,” Hibma says.
Cronan eventually returned home to earn his art degree in 1974 at Sacramento State.
Hibma and Cronan were married for 32 years and have two children: Nick Cronan, an industrial designer, and Shawn Hibmacronan, a sculptor. Hibma will continue to run their company, which created brand identities, names and designs for such clients as Apple, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Williams-Sonoma, the U.S. Postal Service and Levi Strauss. She also intends to revive the couple’s Walking Man apparel line.
A memorial for Cronan is planned in Berkeley on Sunday, June 9, which would have been his 62nd birthday. Read his obituary in the New York Times here.
– Dixie Reid