Ideas Unlimited

As soon as he picked up a copy of Alan Fletcher's The Art of Looking Sideways, Daniel Chehade was hooked. Here he remembers the first time he met his graphic design hero.

Large 79bcb539 84af 4c58 b4fb 222bd819c44b

When I first picked up The Art of Looking Sideways I knew I had found something important. I wanted to find out everything I could about Alan Fletcher.

After wearing this 1000+ page colossal, I discovered Beware Wet Paint, revealing more of Alan’s career with a short biography by Jeremy Myerson and interview with Rick Poynor. Tracing Alan’s career as I did in those early years provided me with all the pin-ups I needed during those years of studying: Forbes, Brownjohn, Birdsall, Froshaug, Kitching, Calvert and Kinnear, Facetti, Spencer…

I’ve been lucky enough to work very closely with Alan’s work and it’s his approach and dedication he gave to his work that continues to mesmerise me. Looking back through these photographs taken by Peter Wood of Alan’s studio, you can see the hunger Alan had for design, creativity and most importantly – ideas.

Large c61cfc1d 02dd 4cb4 87c8 6077aedbc55c

Large 3d7a15d7 1de3 4093 bd5f ae2a656b1407

Large 3b13ce8e 5457 4483 b417 6b014b4f7375

Large 8e0467fe e5ef 4475 8c2d cbee1e21d8e3

Large a41d602b 2aaf 4dc8 a226 f7737f61382b

I met Alan twice...three times if you count the time I followed him around the bar at a D&AD lecture. The first time was the most memorable. To my complete astonishment I had found his telephone number and address in a magazine or book. The day came when I decided to ring him. I wanted to meet him, in the hope that some his magic would rub off on me.

“Hello?” he answered (Shit! Alan actually picks up his own phone!). I have no idea what exactly I asked of him, but he did agree to meet with me if I came by his studio after work the following week. 

The meeting didn’t go quite as planned. 

Large ca351c38 3619 444e b6cf 54b300719578

Large ab4c4a42 0bc8 4215 8e79 7e5794c7880c

Large c410eadb b2b2 4f93 812d 26c8fec0f5b9

Large 18f9022e 6fcb 40eb 95a6 bdde27e729cd

I had decided not to bring any of my work (I wasn't pleased with anything I had done up to this point). I was completely under prepared for the onslaught on questions Alan had for me. “What do I want to do? What sort of work? Whose work are you looking at? What would you charge?”. As Alan spoke it gave me a glimpse at the depth of his knowledge and passion. Alan went on to give advice about who I should be looking at, what to think about if I wanted to get clients of my own, pros and cons of working with others in a partnership. As he did, he often stopped and pulled something from a shelf, opened a drawer or pointed to something on his pin-board – illustrating as he spoke.

In 2007, only a few months after Alan had sadly passed away, I received a telephone call from a printer, Gary Bird. “You should call Raff, she’s Alan Fletcher’s daughter and needs some extra hands putting a together a book”. Gary had worked with Alan a fair bit over the years and it was he who Raffaella called when in need of some help putting together a tribute for her father – a collection of anecdotes by friends, family, colleagues and clients to be given out at a private memorial at the V&A that summer.

Large 91034680 6371 42e9 aa05 3c405032a9b1

Large 173a70b7 b0c1 43f7 af99 f92c3a8b8f3e

Large 7df668cd 9d99 4c1e 90bc 57705a1f72f4

Large 463c364c b927 465e b9ad 3446733a1772

Large 0aa4c3d4 6be0 4fe4 8b7e 4d2d73687602

Before I knew it I was walking down a quiet mews in Notting Hill and knocking on the door to Alan’s former studio and home. It was a surreal few weeks. I was welcomed so warmly I felt like I became a honorary member of the Fletcher family, working with Raffaella and Leah Klein (a former design assistant/and neighbour to Alan) and long delicious lunches with Paola, Alan’s wife.

In one obituary it was said that Alan “was the most highly regarded graphic designer of his generation, and probably one of the most prolific.” It is Alan’s passion and work ethic that still motivates me to do more and do it better.

Large 6913480f bad9 41d2 819e c1937cf2941c

See more of Daniel's work here and explore Alan Fletcher's extensive online archive here.