Alan Fletcher, one of the greatest designers that the UK has ever produced, died last month. Creative Review opened up an online book of condolences on our blog site so that the design world could say goodbye. Here, in tribute to Alan, we reprint a selection of the comments
In the history of attention-getting advertising, writes Rick Poynor, Benetton must surely deserve a place as one of the most effective companies ever to splash its promotional message across a billboard or magazine spread. There was a time when not a year would go by without some new outrage or controversy to set the pundits’ tongues wagging, usually in disapproval, and compel everyone else to take notice of what the knitwear giant was up to now. The company’s charismatic creative director, Oliviero Toscani, was able to dream up an apparently never-ending supply of jaw-dropping stunts and dubious provocations. Neither he nor his indulgent boss, Luciano Benetton, appeared to care in the slightest if people were upset or scandalised by the company’s latest campaign. The main thing for them, it seemed, was that we should keep talking about Benetton.
Then, in 2000, all this stopped. Benetton’s Sentenced to Death initiative about killers on death row was a campaign too far. It caused enormous offence in the US and Toscani resigned. If Benetton’s ads are still provoking heated discussion and calls to tear posters down from the hoardings, it has passed me by. It’s hard not to conclude that, without Toscani at the helm, Benetton’s corporate image is a shadow of what it was.
Alan Fletcher, one of the true greats of graphic design, died last night. He had been diagnosed with cancer 18 months ago but, characteristically, did not want people to know that he was ill.
As a founding member of both Fletcher Forbes Gill and Pentagram, Fletcher had an enormous influence, not just on British design, but on graphic design the world over. During my time as editor of Creative Review I was very fortunate to have got to know Alan. As well as being supremely talented, he was wonderfully warm, funny and the most tremendous company.
In a world of instant celebrity and unearned adoration, Alan was the real thing.
Here we go again. Today’s Observer Magazine proudly proclaims itself to be “The Design Issue” and yet, with wearisome predictability, we search its glossy pages in vain for any acknowledgement that design can, just sometimes, be about the organisation and dissemination of information and ideas. Unless, of course, those ideas are rendered in ruinously expensive polycarbonate.
Graphic design’s invisibility in the British national press long ago ceased to be a surprise. Now it’s just downright rude.