Beginnings

Text: Mike Dempsey

For many of us Alan Fletcher was always part of the graphic landscape, fully formed and brilliant. So it’s hard to imagine him as a twenty something trying to find a creative identity in the ravages of post-war London: a grim, rationed, fog-laden, gloomy place.

In 1950 he wove his way through a series of art schools, culminating in the prestigious Central School of Arts and Crafts. Here he found like-minded students: Derek Birdsall, Terence Conran, Colin Forbes and Theo Crosby. This little gang had a plethora of inspirational tutors at their disposal in the shape of Paul Hogarth to Victor Pasmore, Richard Hamilton to Eduardo Paolozzi and many more. The place was bubbling with experimentation, a sense of optimism and a vision for a future Britain. 

That ethos continued later when Alan was awarded a place at The Royal College of Art, another hot house of surfacing talent, including Len Deighton, Dennis Bailey, David Gentleman, Joe Tilson and Peter Blake. While there he managed to get himself an exchange scholarship to Yale School of Art and Design in the States. 

In 1956, sporting a full head of hair and with his young wife, Paola, on his arm, Alan set sail to the land of plenty, bustling with vibrant colour and full of unapologetic energy. It was a revelation and something he embraced with open arms. At Yale he was again blessed with tutors of exceptional talent, among them Paul Rand, Bradbury Thompson and Josef Albers. 

While in the States Alan kept in touch with Colin Forbes and was sad to discover that he was having a depressing time in London. “Come over, you’ll love it”, suggested Alan. Forbes did just that and was picked up from the airport by Alan and Paola in a classic open-top roadster. They spent the entire evening driving around the dramatic skyscraper canyons of Manhattan. Forbes camped out in Fletcher’s apartment and the stay did the trick: when Forbes departed back to London there was a definite spring in his step and a seed had been planted in his mind that would blossom two decades later. 

Before leaving America, Alan made a point of zooming around New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, making many lifelong friends along the way while freelancing for some of the most creative art directors of the time, including Saul Bass and Leo Lionni. 

The experience of his time in America gave him not only a professional edge but also the confidence to head back to London with the intention of making some waves.

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