Creativity Corner Inspirational People

design hero – the late alan fletcher

May 17, 2012

When studying graphic design, one of my greatest design heroes was the late alan fletcher.

Alan fletcher, one of the five founders of pentagram and one of the world’s greatest designers, died in september 2006 after a private 18-month struggle with cancer. He was born in 1931 in nairobi and moved to london as a child. He studied art and design at four different schools — hammersmith, the central school, the royal college of art, and yale — and worked in new york, chicago, barcelona and milan before returning to london in 1959. Pentagram was formed in 1972.

He famously once said: “i’d sooner do the same on monday or wednesday as I do on a saturday or sunday. I don’t divide my life between labour and pleasure.

At pentagram, his work and client base was remarkably diverse: identities and signage programs for the big boys like reuters, the commercial bank of kuwait, lloyds and ibm on one hand, and small personal projects on the other. “I’m a split personality,” he once was quoted saying. “I do quite large, complex corporate identity jobs. I enjoy that, but I also enjoy sitting round doing my own little things, which are invariably the ones that don’t pay.” So in 1992 he went off on his own to focus on his creative obsessions. These were eventually compiled in his 2001 masterpiece, the art of looking sideways, a staggering tour de force of visual and written delight with over 1,000 pages. It’s really a visual thinking bible. If you don’t own a copy i urge you to at least take a look at one. While doing so check out some of his other books here and here. They’re all very inspiring.

In this youtube clip, Alan Fletcher explains his book perfectly:

From 11 november 2006 – 18 february 2007, the design museum held a major exhibition of fletcher’s work – alan fletcher: fifty years of graphic work (and play) Unfortunately he died as the show was being put together, a couple of months before it opened. I visited quite a few times and it has stayed with me ever since. The images i took are not really good quality. It was very dark and this was before the iphone was invented. I used an old, simple point and shoot but still believe it’s worth showing you some of my favourites that were on display.

Do you know his work and do you have any favourite images?


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  • Reply Holly May 17, 2012 at 11:55 am

    I love coming here and learning things Tina. I didn’t know of Alan Fletcher, but now I am very curious about his work. The Art of Looking Sideways seems really fascinating. I’ve added it to my little wish list (which is actually not so little anymore!). The description on amazon said of the book “a journey without a destination”. Sounds perfect to me, my favourite kind of journey. However, I think that when we set off on such journeys, we always discover things and discovery in itself is, to me, a destination.

    Today I discovered theses little fellows:

    Made my day 🙂

    Hope you are having a marvellous day!


    • Reply tina May 17, 2012 at 1:49 pm

      hey lovely, yes we love ‘a journey without destination’… I always say it: where are people trying to get to…. enjoy the journey, it’s the best place to be!!!!

      Nice thought: “on such journeys, we always discover things and discovery in itself is, to me, a destination.”

      I LOVE the brainsfairies. Thank you so much for this. I think that’s made my day too, oh, and jumping on a plane to go to Berlin. Wish you would be there. x

  • Reply annie May 17, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    That’s so weird, I’ve never heard of him but just now that art of looking sideways appeared in my recommendations on Amazon and I was wondering what it was!

    Are you off to Hive already! Give Chi a big kiss for me and have the best time, can’t wait to read all about it.

    • Reply tina May 17, 2012 at 11:52 pm

      Hey, will kiss Chi … it’s so hot here, have air conditioning on in the room.
      No doubt, we’ll tell you all:)

  • Reply Sam Lennie (Interiorsam) May 17, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    I’ve never heard of AF, this book is fascinating, if I had to choose, I like the gravestones images – the simplicity of them, just a simple as life and death,mmmmmm. One for my shopping list I think.

    Have fun in Berlin busy lady. 30DC taking a back seat for the weekend perhaps?! I’ve lost a bit of momentum, I have to keep checking on what my original play plan actually was! x

    • Reply tina May 17, 2012 at 11:55 pm

      Oh please, having real nightmare with it… The microblocking is really important for me to learn. Am an all or nothing girl and focus best when under pressure…. really struggling. Loved your mood board. Just keep going. I find just by doing something appears, sometimes very different to what you imagined. Let’s hang in there x

  • Reply Igor May 17, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    This book looks really interesting and I love the illustrations!! Cool introduction, Tina, didn’t know about him so far!

    • Reply tina May 17, 2012 at 11:57 pm

      Hey Igor. Yes, he was such a great designer. Really clever. The Illustrations are beautiful. The whole exhibition was so amazing.

  • Reply Theresa May 18, 2012 at 4:35 am

    I have never heard of Alan Fletcher. Thank you so much for the introduction. Like Holly, I love to come here as I’m always learning and discovering something new. From the few pictures that you show above (which are quite good, by the way), I think I would really love his work. I’m going to see if our library has a copy. (Fingers crossed.)
    I know you are in Berlin now getting ready to tackle Hive tomorrow! Have the best time and learn lots. Wish I could tag along. No doubt you’ll return with some great photos and stories to share. xoxo

    • Reply tina May 21, 2012 at 10:50 am

      Thank you Theresa. Always glad to inspire and introduce something new….:)

  • Reply Nicola May 23, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Hi Tina

    This caused me happiness and pain! Happiness to remember Alan Fletcher and the way of Pentagram. Pain to notice my book has disappeared from the shelf!

    Have you seen this? The story of a boy born on the day Pentagram opened and how his life has been tracked by 40 years of their design. See how we’ve all been affected by their work:

    The Forty Story

    • Reply tina May 23, 2012 at 1:51 pm

      Nicola, go on a Fletcher hunt! It’s not as if the book is miniscule, right????

      LOVE the Pentagram story…. wonderful.. have tweeted it!
      Thanks for that xx

  • Reply Micki May 24, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    This won´t be any surprise to you at all: I didn’t know about Alan Fletcher. But now I have to confess: I like the things I see here – and after research “up and down” the internet I found absolute astonishing articles and pics

    • Reply tina May 24, 2012 at 10:11 pm

      I understand why few of my readers know him. He’s mostly known in the Graphic Design world. Anyway, it’s nice to come up against something new, right?

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