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John Alcorn: Evolution by Design

A written retrospective of the American illustrator, commercial artist and designer

by CH Contributor
on 02 October 2014

by Eva Glettner


At his untimely death in 1992, John Alcorn left behind a storied legacy as an illustrator and graphic designer. From his start at famed Push Pin Studios with Milton Glaser to apprenticing with Lou Dorfman at CBS, Alcorn pushed boundaries and captivated clients. Celebrating such history is a new book "John Alcorn: Evolution by Design," delivering a beautiful and thought-provoking journey through the artist’s career, as told with the help of his son, artist Stephen Alcorn. Equal parts biography and portfolio, Alcorn’s work is presented chronologically and thematically, with plenty to look at.

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As history proves, Alcorn was not afraid to experiment and be playful on his pages. His long list of illustrated children's books and advertising design work remain relevant today—logo work for L’Oreal and Rizzoli even remain in place. "Evolution by Design" tells a very personal story. Images include an iteration of Alcorn’s calling card including his home office in Dobb’s Ferry, New York. Readers also get a glimpse of holiday greeting cards from Christmas’ past, designed from scratch each year for his close friends and family. They are whimsical and unencumbered by client demands—though children can be the harshest critics at times.


In addition to offering insight into Alcorn’s career, the book is visually stunning. Alcorn was passionate (to say the least) about typography, and many of his hand-lettering skills were tested at publishing house Morgan Press. There, Alcorn combined rare 19th century American wooden letters with the varied trends of the 1960s—it's fitting that Alcorn was born under the sign of Aquarius because he became one of its devoted students. Aquarius symbols began creeping into all aspects of Alcorn’s work, as seen throughout the publication.

"John Alcorn, Evolution by Design" is edited by Stephen Alcorn and Marta Sironi and is available online from Moleskine for $64.

Images courtesy of Moleskine

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