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Alan Fletcher Artworks with Their Witty Design and Signature Style

12.11.2021
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Alan Fletcher Artworks

Alan Fletcher – graphic designer is one of the most powerful figures in the post-war British era. The fusion of the intellectual European tradition with the emerging North American pop culture in his particular approach secured him a central role in British graphic design in the later 1950s and 1960s. As a founder partner of Pentagram in the 1970s, Fletcher helped set an example of commercial partnership with artistic independence. He also developed some of the most memorable graphic schemes of the era, notably the corporate styles of Reuters and the Victoria and Albert Museum, and contributed to book design by becoming creative director of Phaidon.

Early Years and Education

Fletcher was born to a family of British descent in Kenya. However, in 1931, after the death of his father, the family moved to Great Britain. His mother, grandmother, grandfather, and little Alan settled in West London at the age of 5. During World War II, the boy attended Christ’s Hospital, a boarding school in Horsham, where he wore a special uniform and observed strict rules. Like all his classmates, Fletcher was doomed to serve in the army, church, or banking. Neither of these professions was a good fit, so Fletcher chose to remain middle-class without a successful career.

Alan Fletcher Biography

During the 1950s he attended various art schools, each one different in its own way. Once in the new environment of Central School, Alan met his future partners Colin Forbes and Theo Crosby, as well as such future masters of their craft as Derek Birdsall and Ken Garland. After his successful graduation from Central School, he taught English for a year in Barcelona and then earned a place at the Royal College of Art, where artists Peter Blake and Joe Tilson were among his peers.

He attended the Royal College of Art, but upon graduation, Fletcher was awarded a scholarship for a student trip to the United States on the condition that he attend classes at Yale University under Joseph Albers and Paul Rand.

Change for the Better

Alan no longer wanted to return to bleak and rainy London.

He decided to marry his Italian girlfriend, Paola, and then obtained emigration papers for white Kenyans. Finally, in 1956, he entered the United States through the Canadian border.

For the next two years, Alan Fletcher absorbed everything he could from American graphic design artworks.

First Successes and Accomplishments

Fletcher visited New York to meet prominent graphic designers. Plans were successful. He was even commissioned to design the cover for Leo Lionni.

Alan Fletcher Fortune magazine

On a Friday in 1958, Alan accidentally showed his portfolio to the art director of Fortune magazine, during a satellite launch. That’s when they needed a fresh cover for the new issue. His consistent and creative cover with the author’s signature touches later became the basis for all previous issues.

After graduating from Yale, Fletcher moved to Los Angeles, hoping to make some money. There he worked for several months as an assistant to Saul Bass.

Forced Circumstances

Fletcher loved the United States and loved to stay there, but his wife insisted on returning to Europe. After an unsuccessful trip to Venezuela, their arrival coincided with the revolution and the Fletchers returned to London.

During a brief stay in Milan, Italy, Alan Fletcher worked temporarily in the Pirelli design art studio.

Fletcher was dying to return to New York soon. London looked just as bleak to him and never became his home.

Nevertheless, in the British capital he settled in the cheap studio of his friend Colin Forbes. There Alan Fletcher combined work for Time and Life magazine and Pirelli, with teaching.

Alan Fletcher’s Career Jackpot

Fletcher/Forbes/Gill

Two years later, Fletcher and Forbes decided to legitimize their collaboration and together with American graphic designer Bob Gill, they formed Fletcher/Forbes/Gill. They rounded up all their regulars, rented a studio in a house on Baker Street, and became the most fashionable designers in town. Fletcher/Forbes/Gill’s style is typical of Pirelli ads, illustrating the grip of a tire with an elegantly rotating font. The idea is simple, the graphic elements are minimalist, and the composition is masterpiece-like. The blending of unique typeface and image was the first and only at the time for the whole of British graphic design. Fletcher, Forbes and Gill were among the first graphic designers to be recognized in the London design community, but also beyond. The men were featured in Vogue magazine and an admiring public wanted to collaborate with them.

Association of Designers and Art Directors 1963

In 1963, Fletcher and several of his colleagues founded the D&AD Association of Designers and Art Directors . It was the prototype of New York’s Art Directors Club. They worked day and night on their first exhibition. Clients who came to see the show at the Hilton Hotel were impressed, and the designers and art directors made a lot of money. This turned out to be an important step in raising the profile of British design in the future.

Team Changes and New Challenges

In 1965, Fletcher/Forbes/Gill became Crosby/Fletcher/Forbes when Bob Gill and he were replaced by architect Theo Crosby. Their first major commission was a comprehensive design program for the Reuters news agency. Inspired by advances in technology, Fletcher created the Reuters corporate identity in the form of a basic grid of eighty-four dots to remind us of the company’s purpose. Such Alan Fletcher logos were uncomplicated but memorable, so it was successful until 1996.

1960s Penguin Magazine Fletcher

Another important client in the 1960s was Penguin, which needed illustrations and photographic images on book covers. The company already had its own style and outsourced the design of individual covers to young graphic designers. Their main goal was to draw attention to the typeface. Among Alan Fletcher’s personal accomplishments for Penguin is a book about print communication poster designs.

Crosby/Fletcher/Forbes grew exponentially as the partners delved into new and more serious projects.

The New Firm “Pentagram”

Alan Fletcher Firm Pentagram

In the late 1960s Mervyn Kurlansky joined the company as a senior designer, and in the early 1970s they brought in product designer Kenneth Grange.

In 1971, the design company began thinking of a name for their brand. After reading a book about witchcraft, Fletcher came up with the idea of the Pentagram, that is, a five-pointed star, one for each team partner. Although the associates were worried, they agreed.

alan fletcher working pentagram
alan fletcher pentagram poster

Alan Fletcher worked on Pentagram typography for another 20 years. The firm managed to expand to eleven employees and easily opened branches in New York and San Francisco. Alan combined large-scale corporate identity projects with smaller commissions that provided more opportunity for graphic wit through a team of specialists. Alan’s work during this time has combined carefully crafted logos with spontaneous graphic masterpieces. All of his work demonstrates ingenuity and talent.

Fletcher’s Legacy

Much of Fletcher designs from the Pentagram period has survived to this day.

In 1991, though, Fletcher decided to leave Pentagram, until his final days, he continued to work with an entire generation of young designers and to tell his design story by publishing his own books.

Death of a Prominent Graphic Designer

Fletcher passed away in 2006 at the age of 74. On his shirt at the time of his death was written, “I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.” It was a very short but succinct statement by the witty designer.

In 2010, his daughter, Raffaella Fletcher, founded an archive and a studio in memory of her father. And now all of his work can be traced by era, context, genre and theme. Certainly, the talented graphic designer had his own twist that harmonized with his personality and his signature style.This is also reflected in Alan Fletcher’s book “The Art of Looking Sideways”. Which has become a major textbook on visual intelligence, a study of the eye, hand, brain, and even imagination.

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