This has been one of the saddest weeks in the history of design. The untimely death of Alan Fletcher, one of our greatest stars and biggest characters, has left a gaping hole in the hearts of the many he touched during a long and prolific career. He was the best in so many ways and his influence legion.
I owe him a personal debt for years of generosity and support – as do so many others in design – and feel very privileged to have known him. I share with those others in offering condolences to his wife Paola, daughter Raffaella and their family.
But Alan would not want us to mourn. He would have gruffly suggested we get on with things, but aim to do them better. Those who have worked with him know how tough a taskmaster he was, not least on himself, and I can think of no better tribute to him than for all of us to strive for the best in all we do.
Comparisons are pointless. There is no one quite like Alan. But his death comes at a time when graphic design – or branding as it is now often known – is at a low ebb.
We can, and often do, blame the education system, the client or the way design has become a business rather than a craft-based industry. There is some validity in all of these accusations, but none is an excuse. All have been subject to change, but such is life, and many of the changes have created great opportunities – take the emergence of digital design as a quasi graphics discipline and the platform for some fantastic work.
It is more likely that designers lack the confidence to push their ideas – or is it that ideas play only a bit part, with more lucrative ‘strategy’ taking centre stage? Either way, Alan still serves as an inspiration.
Shortly before his death, he bequeathed his archive to the Design Museum. It is a mighty body of work and the bequest will be celebrated in an exhibition in November. Go and see it, enjoy the craft, revel in the wit and take from it what you can. To borrow one of Alan’s phrases, it represents ‘a way of seeing’.