Fletcher | Forbes | Gill
Text: Mike Dempsey
Alan introduced Bob Gill to Colin Forbes. They all seemed to get along swimmingly, admiring one another’s work. Discussions of getting together formally became a regular talking point, which, as Alan recalled, was endless. It was only after some clairvoyant advice given to Gill in a caravan that they finally agreed to join forces.
Work was divided up and they found a nice little space thanks to Gill, who persuaded an ad agency he’d been involved with to bankroll the purchase of a small house in a mews just off Baker Street. A year passed while the property was being renovated and on April Fools’ Day 1962, the Fletcher/Forbes/Gill doors were opened on what was to become a devastating force in British graphics.
At first it was just the three of them, all very hands on, plus a receptionist and her dog. With not enough work to occupy all of them they would often spend time in nearby cafés bitching about London and philosophising about design while puffing away on Gauloises and downing copious amounts of coffee.
What little work they had came from Time and Life, Pirelli and Penguin Books. With the latter client they’d argue over which of them was to design a cover, for the handsome fee of £30 (around £450 in today’s money).
One day Alan recalled coming back from a lunch to discover their receptionist painting her fingernails. Perturbed by this lack of conscientiousness, there were huddled discussions and talks of firing, but Alan had a better idea. He told her that they were going to promote her and that she was now going to be the receptionist and bookkeeper. It worked. The nail varnish never reappeared.
The idea of passing on their wisdom in book form was established with A Sign Systems Manual, Identity Kits and Graphic Design: Visual Comparisons and were the beginning of many to follow. And up popped a new partner in the shape of Theo Crosby.