Then there were two

Text: Mike Dempsey

Alan’s journey back home from New York actually went via Venezuela (an ill-judged fantasy, but that’s another story) and then on to Italy with Paola. While there he spent time in Milan working for Pirelli.

When he did finally arrive back in London he still held the memory of his exhilarating time in the States, but that image was abruptly brought down to earth. London was even more depressing than when he’d left three years earlier. Teenagers looked like their parents, apart from the odd Teddy Boy. There was little design work to be had. The industry was still termed ‘commercial art’ and what good stuff there was went to the established guard of the day: Milner Grey, Henrion, Misha Black, Abram Games et al. Alan longed to be back in the noise and neon of New York, where everything was big and blowsy, and work was plentiful and well paid. 

Thanks to the connections he had made in New York he’d secured a three-day-a-week consultancy for Time and Life in London, along with work from Pirelli and a one-day-a-week teaching post at Central School thanks to Colin Forbes, who was head of graphics. Alan rented space in Colin’s flat as a studio. With the security of some income from his two clients, he began to work.

During the tail end of Alan’s time in New York he’d made a point of contacting the city’s creative set. He’d been keen to seek out Bob Gill, a young ‘hot’ designer at the time. But it never happened. Back in London he settled into a daily routine in his basement studio at Forbes’s flat. One evening his phone rang: “Hello Alan, it’s Bob Gill. I’m in London. Can we meet?” The die was being cast for the beginning of something very special.