Roy Kuhlman was born in 1923 in Fort Worth, Texas, and raised in Glendale, California. He received a scholarship to the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles and in 1946 obtained another scholarship to the Art Students League of New York, and also attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. In 1951, at age 28, he showed his portfolio to Barney Rosset, publisher of the avant-garde Grove Press. Rosset was not impressed. However, as Kuhlman was putting away his book, two pieces of abstract art that he had not intended to show fell from one of the side pockets. Kuhlman was hired to design Grove's book covers and did so until the late 1960s.
Kuhlman gradually began to apply abstract art in a more graphic way, not only to imagery, but also to type. Rosset describes Kuhlman's designs as an attempt to "go between being a purely creative act and a commercial one." His work was occasionally representational and conceptually based as well. Rosset saw in Kuhlman's designs the perfect counterpoint to the texts he was publishing. He also designed the original format for Evergreen Review, Grove's cultural magazine.
Kuhlman also got a start in the advertising business from the famed art director Herb Lubalin at Sudler & Hennessy, and became an art director and designer for Columbia Records. Later he was hired by the public relations firm Ruder & Finn to establish an in-house art department, then joined Benton & Bowles, where he designed the award-winning Mathematics Serving Man campaign for IBM, which appeared in Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report in May 1960. IBM also commissioned him to produce 700 slides and 52 live-action and animated shorts to promote computer sales. In 1962, he joined Electra Films to work on motion graphics and title sequences.
- Heller, Steven (5 February 2007). "Roy Kuhlman Dies at 83; Designer for Grove Press". The New York Times.
- Brower, Gall, Steven, John. "Grove at the Vanguard". Evergreen Review/Print.
- "1995 HALL OF FAME". Art Directors Club Global.